Environmentalists and international travel groups applaud decision to raise entry fee to Galapagos

Mar 1, 2024 | 0 comments

By Ilaria Grasso

Environmentalists and tourism groups have hailed the Ecuadorian government’s decision to double the entry fee to the Galapagos National Park for foreign visitors, with the proceeds going to fund conservation and sustainability projects in the islands.

Entry for Ecuadorian residents will increase from $6 to $30.

Many environmentalists worry that growing numbers of tourists are damaging the unique environment of the Galapagos Islands.

From 1 August 2024, entry prices to visit the archipelago will go up from the current $100 per adult to $200, the government announced last week.

Ecuador’s tourism minister Niels Olsen said the increase – the first in 26 years – was a “necessary measure” to ensure tourism to the islands remains “mutually beneficial to both the environment and our local communities”.

Beyond conservation efforts, the money will be invested in infrastructure upgrades and community programs.

Head of the travel group Journey Latin America, Stuart Whittington, said the price review was “very much needed” and demonstrated Ecuador’s commitment to sustainable travel. He pointed out that the Galapagos faces problems similar to those at Machu Picchu in Peru, where visitor numbers have overwhelmed efforts to maintain the grounds.

“In the Galagagos, the issue is protecting the unique environment and the constantly growing number of tourists is generating pollution and putting pressure on the infrastructure to accommodate them,” Whittington says.

Pura Aventura co-founder and chief executive Thomas Power said the move was “long overdue”, and added he believed the balance between “private profit and public resourcing” had shifted “too far away from the mission of preserving nature.” He added that the $100 increase in the entry is “probably too small,” but said it will provide funds to protect the islands’ unique flora and fauna.

Power compared the entry fees to the cost of a gorilla excursion in central Africa, which he said can range from $400 and $1,500 per person. “Even doubling the park fees to $200 for a full week in the islands barely touches the sides,” said Power, who is advocating for the Ecuadorian government to go further.

“Back when the fees were set at $100, that represented as much as 10% of the cost of a week-long liveaboard. Nowadays, it is routinely 1-2%. The park authority can be braver and look to set the park fee as a fixed 4% of a cruise cost with a minimum of $200 per visitor.”

Explore Worldwide product manager Carmel Hendry highlighted how the raised fee represented “the tug of war between conservation and tourism”, and stressed this would continue to be a challenge for as long as tourism in the Galapagos keeps growing.

“While we’re contributing enormously to the economy of the Galapagos, we’re using community and governmental resources and infrastructure that could benefit from improvement,” said Hendry. “The improvements and additional funds for conservation will help protect and preserve the islands for the tourism of the future – I see it as paying it forward. In fact, this is a very modest increase and will have little impact on visitors who pay thousands of dollars for air fare and lodging to ”

The increase comes at a delicate time for Ecuador’s tourism industry with the country currently under a 60-day state of emergency due to an increase in political unrest and gang violence.

Over the past year, Ecuador has suffered several significant blows to its tourism economy following a series of politically motivated incidents, which prompted many countries – including the US and UK – to caution against travel to coastal areas of the country.

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