Support the local community with responsible Galapagos travel

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

When 8 out of 10 jobs in an area rely on tourism, a sudden shut-down in travel has a huge impact on the people there.

As the pandemic raged across the globe in 2020, it was easy to forget the damage done beyond the headline-grabbing stats about infection rates and hospitalizations.

In the Galapagos, it is estimated that tourism supports more than 80% of the local economy. This goes far beyond the obvious – tour guides, captains, boat crews, and hotel workers – and extends along whole supply chains and community networks.

Local farmers, boat repair services, maintenance workers, skilled labourers such as electricians, plumbers, decorators and builders, not to mention all those who supply the suppliers and feed, clothe and otherwise support the workforce and their families – all of these faced devastation when travel restrictions suddenly shut down the tourism industry back in March 2020, causing profound hardship for families, businesses, and the community at large.

In the first two months of the pandemic alone, the islands’ economy lost almost a quarter of its annual income. The Galápagos Chamber of Tourism recently reported that visitor numbers between July and October dropped a staggering 95%, with visitor numbers as a whole in 2020 falling to levels last seen 20 years ago.

What’s more, the economic devastation also poses a serious threat to the conservation of this extraordinary and pristine archipelago. After all, many hotels and luxury cruise operators, including Ecoventura, donate funds each year to the incredible organisations working to conserve and protect the wildlife and landscapes that make this spot one of the most unique and unforgettable on the planet. And ultimately it is the income from tourism that generates the finances for so much of this activity.

Travel responsibly – and give back to the Galapagos community

Fortunately, the Galapagos authorities and residents did a great job minimising the extent of any local outbreaks, and were able to reopen to visitors back in July 2020 with a host of new safety protocols and entry requirements to protect tourists and locals alike.

Ecoventura followed suit in August, once again with a raft of enhanced health and safety arrangements on board, and with modifications to our itineraries; crowded towns out, remote locations in – so that our voyages now feel more exclusive than ever!

Being able to take to the waves once again was an exciting and emotional experience for our team; the first signs that the worst was, perhaps, behind us, and of course a vital step in keeping our crew employed and able to support their families.

The impact of your travel dollars are critical to sustain both the local economy and conservation efforts across the islands.

After all, as our CEO Santiago Dunn pointed out in a recent webinar he moderated for Seatrade Cruise Virtual – Expedition Cruising, tourism contributes almost $600m annually to the archipelago’s economy, with expedition cruising punching above its weight, accounting for $400m of that.

So, for anyone out there thinking about a trip to the Galapagos – and why not after so long stuck at home? – remember that not only will it be the trip of a lifetime, you’ll also be helping support the local community after such a difficult year.  Ecuador is targeting 100% immunization rate for the 30,000+ adult population of the Galapagos by the end of May to lure tourists back to the islands.

How you can help

In the meantime, there are several great fundraising campaigns helping to support the community and get through such a difficult time.

Donations received by the Galápagos Island Relief Fund will enable Fundación Un Cambio Por La Vida (FUNCAVID), a local non-profit organization, to disseminate micro-loans and grants to the people of the Galápagos, focusing primarily on urgent needs such as food security, as well as education, sustainable development, and conservation.

A fundraising campaign designed to raise money for the Tomas de Berlanga school on Santa Cruz Island has raised over $25,000 – the majority of the children who attend do so with scholarship support, and the school is now at risk of closure as its funding has dried up.

Another campaign, for Galapagos guides – many of whom are freelance and saw their incomes disappear overnight when restrictions were put in place – has so far reached $15,000, helping support the passionate experts that contribute so much to creating such memorable and amazing trips.

So if you’d like to support this remarkable location, get in touch with our team to help book your next trip – the local community and the wildlife that call it home will thank you for it!