More Chinese attracted to world's white wilderness

More Chinese attracted to world's white wilderness

Endless snow and glaciers, untouched coastlines and the thrill of following in the footsteps of renowned explorers are luring more Chinese to polar trips.

A total of 3,367 Chinese visited the South Pole from November to March, comprising about 9 per cent of the total number to the continent and ranking third after visitors from the United States and Australia, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.

Chinese travelers to Antarctica comprised only 0.2 per cent of the total 10 years ago, the association said. The travel season to the continent runs from November to March.

"China's booming economy and a rapidly expanding middle class are making it one of the main clients for polar tourism," said Han Weitao, vice-president of Tripolers, the only Chinese travel agency to join the Antarctica operators association.

The association was founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and conduct private-sector travel to the continent.

Although there are no exact figures for visitors to the Arctic, Han said more people are considering going there and many are taking Arctic trips for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"The numbers making polar tours will keep growing," Han said, adding that more than 400 have applied so far for this year's Antarctica and Arctic trips organised by the agency.

Xiao Feng from Beijing feels the 52,800 yuan (S$10,715) it cost her for an 18-day trip to Antarctica in January and February was money well spent. She celebrated her 70th birthday there.

"When you are there, you can understand how powerful nature is," Xiao said, adding that every minute in Antarctica had been unforgettable.

On the trip, she observed a penguin family and visited the Great Wall Station, China's first Antarctic research station built in 1985. She now plans to travel to the Arctic.

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