Tourism to and on Galápagos: Managing tourism-related conservation challenges

The Galápagos Archipelago, located on the Equator. about 1000 km west of the Latin American continent, consists of about a dozen major and more than 100 smaller islands. The 7,880 km2 of land and the over 45,000 km2 of surrounding ocean have been better preserved, are closer to what they looked like before Europeans settled there than any other comparable Archipelago in the world.

Organized tourism started in the 60ies, at a time when the resident population was around 2500. Over this half-century, the number of visitors to the Islands rose to around 200 000 p.a., leading to an increase of the resident population of about 25 000. Simultaneously the capacity to avoid, mitigate and manage resulting conservation problems have increased vastly, but, as in most other island systems, the impact of introduced species is significant and the increase of tourism-related traffic has not yet been met by a satisfactory system of quarantine.

Over the past half-century political support by the Ecuadorian has been significant and positive. Having said that, it is clear that this support is, at the end of the day, a function of the significance of Galápagos for the Ecuadorian economy. This is where internationally led education of potential GPS customers/tourists becomes crucial; if tourists want and pay for wilderness and unspoiled land and sea, conservation investments will be made.

We’ve had exchanges with National Parks in other parts of the world. The GPS National Park Service is fairly well developed and can serve as a model, also in a negative way.

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