Penguin blockbuster spurs march to the pole

Their Charlie Chaplin charms have made penguins the surprise cinema box office stars of the year. The March of the Penguins, a wildlife documentary made for less than £4.5m by a previously unknown French biologist, Luc Jacquet, has so far taken in more than $110m (£62m) worldwide.

Travel companies are expecting a surge of interest in trips to the Antarctic in the wake of its enormous success.

Though British critics have been harsher on this sentimental film than Americans, who embraced it as affirming traditional family values, it has prompted a surge of inquiries to tour operators specialising in the penguins' snowy homeland.

Anyone wanting to beat the crowds should go now, as the expense of exploring the last relatively unexplored continent means the post-March of the Penguins boom is likely to be two years down the line.

Jarrod Kyte, the manager of Peregrine Adventures, which has been a polar expert for the past decade, said promotions tied to the film had generated "a huge number of inquiries".

"We're absolutely delighted with the success of The March of the Penguins," he said. "In terms of raising the profile of the trips we do, it has had an impact. Whether it has an impact in the level of bookings remains to be seen, because this kind of holiday has a long lead-in time from the point of thinking, 'Aren't penguins cute?'

"We sell this kind of holiday as an expedition cruise and people look on it as something they're not just going to do on a whim. You're looking at about £5,000. It's high premium."

Andy Cochrane, the managing director of the specialist tour operator Noble Caledonia, whose latest adverts boast an engaging line-up of the black and white birds, said: "Obviously, when a film like this happens, you feel you can't ignore it. You feel you have to plunder a little of what's happening."

Antarctica was already one of Noble Caledonia's strongest products, but there has been a rise in inquiries.

"I have no doubt it will convince a few more people to go, but people will take their time. It's expensive and not all the people who go are wealthy. People who are inquiring now are probably thinking of going in 2008. We're selling the winter of '06-'07 now and that's been on sale for five or six months."

Ben Roseveare of the Adventure Company, which has dozens of penguins on its latest mailing to customers, said interest in Antarctica had already been growing in the past 18 months.

"The lure of the great white continent is huge in this country now. The British public has definitely become aware that this is a very exciting wilderness destination to travel to," Mr Roseveare said.

It was, perhaps, a natural extension southwards of the South America boom which had seen growing numbers venture to Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Chile in the past five years, partly prompted by the broadcaster Michael Palin.

Penguins may be prompting a flurry of inquiries, but Mr Roseveare said Palin remained the most influential force in travel itineraries. "We call it the Palin Effect," he said. "The Himalayas have been doing well [in the wake of Palin's television series] and Pole to Pole did lots for Peru and that continent. Documentaries that captivate, that are about travel, have a positive effect on our bookings."

He and his rivals scour the listings to see what might be grabbing attention in future. He investigated Dan Cruickshanks' voyage Around the World in 80 Treasures, for instance, for its marketing potential, though eventually ruled it was "too sporadic".

Penguins can be seen on the sandy beaches of Boulders Bay in South Africa, home to the only mainland colony of African penguins, but some believe their dress-suit waddling loses a certain something in sunshine.

Other potential sources of inspiration for holidays can be found at cinemas this Christmas, as the travel firms have noticed.

On the reverse side of the Adventure Company's mailing is a gorilla. But whether Peter Jackson's blockbuster remake of King Kong will send anyone scurrying to the mountains of Rwanda and Uganda remains to be seen.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25K + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue