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Galapagos, a destination that becomes more exclusive for tourism to take care of the natural environment

Galapagos, a destination that becomes more exclusive for tourism to take care of the natural environment

The future of tourism in the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)the first natural heritage of humanity, is the subject of debate and controversy due to the recent decision to make it more exclusive to visitors starting in August, when the entrance fee to the National Park will be raised from 6 to 30 dollars for local tourists. and from 100 to 200 dollars for foreigners.

According to him ‘Conservation report of properties inscribed on the world heritage list’ According to UNESCO, it is a priority to stabilize the growth in the volume of tourism to maintain the well-being of the ecosystem and the inhabitants of Galapagos, and to this end the Government Council of Galapagos approved raising entry rates.

The objective is to promote tourism focused on sustainability and the ability to boost the local economy.

The director of the Galapagos National Park, Arturo Izurieta, told EFE that 2023 marked a record with 330,000 tourists in the archipelago, more than half foreigners, mainly Americans.

Izurieta reflected that 26 years ago, when the rate for foreigners was raised from $25 to $100, the mayors and the population had the same perception that some have now about problems for tourism and the economy.

“Statistics and numbers don’t lie. I am sure that with this step, apart from putting the house in order, we will continue to have tourists“, he said, estimating that the increase could go down to fifteen%in front of 23% reported from 2022 to 2023, which is still “gigantic” for a national park like the Galapagos.

Tourism dependence

Julia Llamuco, manager of a travel agency on Santa Cruz Island, opposes the measure, believing that it will scare away tourists, harming the economy, which depends on “a 90%of tourism.

“We ask the authorities not to increase this rate, because that will affect us one hundred percent. Do they want us to migrate from the Galapagos?” he asked himself.

Llamuco told EFE that a group of agencies have formed associations with tourist guides to support conservation, so he does not see the increase as necessary.

The woman added that they are also affected by tourism agencies that offer complete packages from continental Ecuador, which deprives them of clients, and complained that tourism by boat does not provide revenue for Galapagos commerce.

And many tourists, mostly foreigners, choose to take cruises that range from US$ 1,500 and up, in contracted tourist packages, where they spend the entire time on board the boat, without spending the night or eating in some of the towns. of the archipelago.

Prohibitive for Ecuadorians?

Flavio Martínez and his wife saved a year to travel from Quito to the Galapagos with their son, in order to “get to know these enchanted landscapes that belong to Ecuador and know a little more about the existence of all species”he told EFE in Puerto Ayora, the most populated of the archipelago with about 15,000 inhabitants, on the island of Santa Cruz.

Martínez, 42, thinks the rate hike announcement is “bad” because “The population that is of medium and low status will not have that accessibility to come. “It’s going to be unattainable.”

“Only people with money and exclusive people would come,” said this military man on passive duty who he found in Galapagos. “unique islands, very beautiful”so he sees it as unfair that “People miss this.”

Will foreign tourism continue?

The Galapagos was one of the obligatory stops on the trip through South America made by the British Scott Lawrence, interested in the biodiversity of the archipelago, which helped the scientist Charles Darwin to develop his theory of the evolution of species in the 19th century.

Lawrence believes that many foreigners will have no problem paying the new rate because “It’s not a lot of money for them.” on a trip that is once in a lifetime.

But he expressed hope that the extra money would go toward protecting areas and eradicating invasive species in the Galapagos.

Revenue sharing

Llamuco related that if an animal is injured in the Galapagos, it immediately receives care, while the hospital that cares for the residents does not have what is necessary, and that is why he questioned the destination of the extra money, since he does not see it reflected in services for community.

However, Verónica Santamaría, who participated in the technical study for raising the rate, explained to EFE that 50% of the tax goes to the Ministry of the Environment, with 45% for the Galapagos National Park and 5% for the biosafety agency.

The remaining 50% is distributed between the Government Council of Galapagos, the city councils and the parish councils, he said.

In Galapagos, tourism is based on nature and “In order to continue conserving these values, it is necessary that institutions be able to continue financing these conservation plans,” Santamaría argued.

He believed that neither the Executive nor the municipalities “They are already able to handle so many tourists, precisely because of the resources (because) some services are needed: drinking water, sewage…”.

Santamaría does not see a dilemma between tourism and conservation: “We have to conserve so that tourism continues,” ditch.

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Source: Gestion

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