A21 History: Laying the Groundwork for Growth
Carolina Manzanares, Antarctica21’s Land Services Manager, recounts how four important projects spured growth and improvement of A21’s operation and guest experience.
In 2023 Antarctica21 celebrates its 20th Anniversary. During our company’s 20th anniversary year, we want to celebrate our history with a review of the important milestones that have defined our journey. This is one of the notable moments in the company’s history. You can read more stories here.
Written by Carolina Manzanares, Antarctica21’s Land Services Manager
I began working at Antarctica21 in 2011 and, since then, have seen the company evolve and grow. I have witnessed and taken part in this wonderful progression from our office in Punta Arenas, and with great pride.
One of the benefits Antarctica21 provides to its guests is the personalized service we offer in Punta Arenas. As a local company in this remote region, we have built an extensive network of key relationships and a solid infrastructure to support each expedition. 2015 was a significant year for our company. That year, we launched four important projects to improve our operation and enhance the travel experience for our guests.
By 2015, Antarctica21’s Air-Cruise Model had been established worldwide, well beyond the pioneering, novel idea of the early years. As demand for our programs increased, we decided to add an additional ship to our fleet, Sea Explorer, or Hebridean Sky as we knew it later with much affection. With a 29-night season, Hebridean Sky provided additional capacity to meet demand, requiring an expansion of our commercial team to manage the increased volume. Well-received by guests for its spacious cabins and elegant interiors, Hebridean Sky helped us serve a new, premium market segment.
The operation of two ships also motivated us to make a few important changes in Punta Arenas. We transitioned our operation to the 4-star Cabo de Hornos Hotel, improving the accommodation experience of our guests while also having larger public spaces for our pre-departure procedures. To add mobility to our team and agility to our processes, including airport transfers, we purchased a van and hired a full-time driver. Finally, we increased the size of our Hospitality Team. Services that had previously been outsourced to contractors were now performed by our own highly trained and knowledgeable team members, who took care of airport receptions, transfers, boot delivery, hosting our welcome dinners, trip orientation sessions, staffing our hospitality desks, and much more.
OFFICE AND EXPEDITION FACILITY
Our Punta Arenas office was expanded as we added several dedicated workspaces for our growing seasonal teams. We also built a 500 sq. m. (5,400 sq. ft.) expedition facility, a crucial investment we made to support the delivery of quality Antarctic experiences for our guests. Located right next to our office, the new facility gave our expedition team a spacious storage depot for all our gear, a garage to store our van, and various functional work areas.
In the expedition facility, our teams prepare all the Antarctica-bound supplies and provisions needed for our expeditions, clean and process our expedition boots, perform maintenance on handheld radios and other supplies, and much more.
MY EXPEDITION PORTAL
Another important innovation introduced in 2015 was the launch of our online pre-departure portal, the “My Expedition” portal. At the time when many travel companies were still scanning paper forms and emailing PDF files, the portal was a cutting-edge solution. In addition to offering guests essential resources to prepare for their trip, the portal was integrated with our reservation system so client-provided information (shoe size, dietary requirements, preferences, etc.) could be managed efficiently within all our trip management processes.
That year passed quickly, and although there were some growing pains, it was a formative year for me and the company. All the changes we implemented helped us manage the increased scale and laid the groundwork for future growth.