The Galapagos archipelago is a popular destination for travelers around the world. Tourism in Galapagos accounts for 85% of the archipelago’s economy.
Before the pandemic, tourists flocked to the islands in massive numbers. While this can positively impact the economy and local people, visitors mustn’t harm the environment. Tourism to vulnerable ecosystems necessarily involves careful planning and balancing.
Thus, the importance of ecotourism comes in. Galapagos National Park is at the forefront of promoting sustainable tourism worldwide.
In this post, we will tackle the impacts of tourism in the Galapagos islands, the benefits of ecotourism in the archipelago, and how to help the Ecuadorian government maintain the conservation of the islands.
What is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism entails traveling around natural beauty spots sustainably and responsibly instead of simply touring around the region.
The idea is to visit relatively unspoiled or uncontaminated areas while emphasizing sustainable development, environmental conservation, and respect for the local community.
Negative Impacts of Tourism in the Galapagos
While tourism provides many opportunities for the locals of the Galapagos, there are also downsides to receiving too many tourists on the islands. Here are a few instances of how tourism has harmed the Galapagos Islands.
Increased Demand For Food
Because the Galapagos Islands are a popular tourist destination, locals are so overwhelmed by the number of tourists wanting to eat out across the islands that they can’t keep up with demand.
Farmers and fishermen cannot provide enough food to satisfy everyone flocking in, so food must be imported from the mainland to meet demand.
Food supply does not seem to be an issue, as we encountered no problems while eating on the islands. However, it is essential to know the situation so you can make better choices during your trip.
Because of more people staying on the islands, there is a lot more litter. People throw garbage on the ground, which pollutes the air, contaminates the soil and water, and kills some of the most vulnerable animals who mistake it for food.
These situations jeopardize the natural, one-of-a-kind environment that draws tourists to the Galapagos Islands.
So far, we have found no litter during our stay on the islands. The locals and tourists are very conscious of their surroundings, and everyone adheres to the rules in the Galapagos.
Protecting the Galapagos Islands and its Wildlife
The pristine Galapagos islands and their rich wildlife deserve strict environmental protection standards. Thus, the government of Ecuador takes all possible measures to keep the islands’ sanctity and biodiversity.
If tourism appears to be harming an area, the National Park Authority can adjust this limit.
One of our tour guides explained that the Galapagos National Park had initiated a carrying capacity to restrict the number of island visitors.
This regulation prevents major attractions from becoming overcrowded and endangering rare biodiversity by destroying the ecosystem.
Another implementation that benefits the islands is the $100 entrance fee requirement for tourists in the Galapagos Islands.
Some may think that the amount is too much. However, the majority of tourism funds are directed to Ecuador’s mainland. By doing our part, we are actually helping the Galapagos.
Each year, approximately $63 million of this total supports the local economy and conservation efforts on the islands. Responsible tourism can thus have a positive impact on the local environment.
Benefits of Ecotourism in the Galapagos Islands
Galapagos ecotourism has benefited Ecuador economically and is the only practical way to support the Galapagos National Park. The Galapagos model of low-impact tourism has served the archipelago well.
As the tourism sector expands, more job opportunities will likely emerge, encouraging people to stay on the islands while encouraging others to relocate to find work in the industry.
Ecotourism ensures that any new developments are created environmentally friendly and sustainably. Therefore, even if new attractions are built on the islands, the fragile balance of the Galapagos habitats is preserved.
Many tour operators collaborate on projects or donate some of their profits to help preserve the archipelago’s wildlife.
Additionally, eco-friendly tours include visits to animal sanctuaries or conservation projects where visitors can learn more about these efforts and volunteer there.
Visiting the Galapagos Islands has educated us on the importance of ecotourism and the conservation efforts taking place in the archipelago.
As travelers, we learned to focus on sustainability and became mindful of our impact on a destination.
Educating travelers about ecotourism is beneficial because it raises public awareness of the potential consequences of over-tourism, the numerous benefits of ecotourism, and the critical work being done on the islands to preserve the unique ecosystem.
Tips to Maintain Sustainable Tourism in the Galapagos Islands
Comply with the Rules in the Conservation Areas and Parks
Following the basic rules and protocols in the islands is a simple way to help maintain the islands’ beauty. It also shows your respect for the locals and wildlife in the region.
Simple rules such as not feeding the animals, avoiding using single-use plastics, and ensuring proper waste disposal are only a few things we can do to help the Galapagos islands in their conservation.
Support Local Businesses
Shopping for souvenirs at local gift shops and buying food and drinks in local restaurants and bars will help boost the island’s economy.
It also opens more opportunities for the island people as they can earn without leaving the islands.
Choose Activities Responsibly
Being aware of local laws is essential when traveling to any location. Several rules in the Galapagos Islands can help you in making responsible decisions.
- Fishing from tour boars is prohibited.
- Motorized water sports are not permitted in the National Park.
- The National Park forbids aerial tourism.
If someone offers you any of these activities, confidently decline them. You can choose a low-impact activity instead, like kayaking.
The Galapagos is a remarkable destination with natural landscapes and wildlife. As tourists, we should be aware of the rules and regulations on the islands and travel responsibly. This way, we can help conserve the Galapagos islands’ ecosystems, wildlife, and the local population.