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Biodiversity as a Tool to Break the Dependence: The Case For Galapagos Tourism

Harvard University April 21, 2014

Galapagos Tourism Today at a Glance

• With 95% of its original biodiversity intact, Galapagos is still the best preserved tropical archipelago in the world • 204,000 tourists in 2013 • 97% of the 3,000 square mile land mass is National Park and, in general, only accessible by vessels • Galapagos Tourism is valued at $416MM (Taylor, 2006) • $63MM remains in the Islands

Brief History of Galapagos Tourism Development

• Developed between 1950-1960 as a sustainable economic model for island residents • “Floating hotel” model of tourism was deemed the most practical and ecologically sensitive mode of tourism (also most expensive) • 1980 – 12,000 tourists • 2013 – 204,000 tourists

Unintended Consequences: Social Impact

• Model focused on visitor sites, not engagement of local residents • Rise in resident population • 1980 – 5,000 • 2013 – 30,000 • Increase in conflicts (social, economic, educational) • 53% of population live in poverty or extreme poverty (UBNI) (3rd lowest level of poverty in the nation)

Unintended Consequences: Alternative Models & Changing Visitor Profiles

• Rapid growth in land tourism (73% or 53,000) of national tourists seek short, land-based tourism • Rapid growth in “grey market” (unregulated hotels, tours) • Changing visitor profiles • Less interested in conservation and more in tourism amenities

Predictive Model of Changes in Markets

Plog, 2001

Future of Galapagos Tourism: Sustainable Communities



Invasive species


Illegal fisheries


Control of immigration and residency

Special Law for Galapagos

Improved education

Education reform, SENESCYT

Greater efficiency in governance and regional planning

CGG, Grupo Nucleo

UNESCO Mission Report, 2007

Future of Galapagos Tourism: Getting Back on Track

•Charter for Galapagos Ecotourism (2010 – CDF, WWF, GNP)* •Maximize participation and equitable distribution of benefits to local populations •Environmental conservation •Shared responsibility (operators, tourists, local community) •Implementation of the model – Experimental Ecotourism Projects* •Two new sites (Floreana, Isabela) Next steps •Use data from tourism surveys (T0, GNP, CGG) •Monitor the implementation of Strategic Tourism Plans for each canton •Strengthen institutions that coordinate tourism

*Has not been approved by the CGG

Future of Galapagos Tourism: Other Relevant Models Restricted High-End Tourism • Deliberate choice to limit growth, but no official limit on number of tourists • 116,000 tourists (2012) • $200-$250 per day, per person government-required minimum • No independent travelers • Small groups are encouraged • Second-largest revenue generator (after hydropower)

Biodiversity as a Tool to break the Dependence  

Biodiversity as a Tool to Break the Dependence: The Case for Galapagos Tourism Johannah Barry