Exploring the Galapagos Islands through cruises ceased to be the main alternative used by visitors. Tourism by land has registered an important growth in the last decade that even surpasses the visits by cruises that predominated from the decade of the seventy to the two thousand.
Between 2007 and 2016, the number of visitors who participated in land tours increased from 79,000 to 152,000, an increase of 92%, according to figures from the Galapagos National Park. On the other hand, the tourism that moves in ships fell 11%, going from 82,000 to 73,000 people in that period.
The figures that reveal this changing scenario in the islands generate concern from the International Association of Tour Operators of Galapagos. This group, which brings together 35 tour operators, expressed concern about the possible impacts that the rapid growth of land-based tourism can bring to the archipelago’s wildlife.
And he transferred that concern to the Government through a letter sent last February to the Tourism Minister, Enrique Ponce de León, asking him to regulate this type of tourism more carefully.
Matt Kareus, executive director of the association, explained to The New York Times that shipping tourism is a more controlled industry because the Government of Ecuador has put a limit on the number of jetties allowed for the cruise fleet to the Galapagos. But the rules for land tourism are “lax and that’s why this segment of the tourism industry is growing dangerously fast,” he said.
The American newspaper points out that the association of tour operators does not want to prohibit land tourism in the Galapagos, but it does look for mechanisms to control how many people can go.
Galapagos travel specialists and locals told the American newspaper that land-based tourism is growing rapidly because the construction of hotels on the islands soared over the past decade.
Data collected in 2007 by the Charles Darwin Foundation, which promotes wildlife research, revealed that in 2006, the islands housed 65 hotels. Last year, the Galápagos Tourism Observatory registered 317.
This growth in the hotel offer is reflected not only in the luxury segment, but also in the emergence of less expensive accommodations.
In hotel search engines, for example, accommodations are offered that range from $ 25, something that attracts visitors who choose to put together their tours.
This newspaper yesterday requested a version from the Ministry of Tourism about this request made by the International Association of Tour Operators of Galapagos, but it was indicated that a response was being prepared. An advisor to the president of the Galápagos Government Council indicated that they had asked for the issues to be addressed to the ministry so that they could decide on this.
From next August, the Council of Government of Galápagos will activate controls for the entrance of foreigners to Galápagos. They will be required to have health insurance. In addition, visitors must show their return plane ticket, the place where they will be staying or a letter of invitation issued by a resident in the Galapagos Islands.
“Unlike those governing cruises, the rules for land tourism are negligent and that is why this segment of the tourism industry is growing dangerously fast.” Matt Kareus, of the International Association of Tour Operators of Galapagos. (I)