Lindblad Expeditions and Island Conservation have launched the Galapagos Island Relief Fund to provide financial assistance for island residents, 80% of who depend on tourism and have been financially devastated by the impact of the Covid19 pandemic.
Donations received by the fund will enable a local nonprofit, Fundacion Un Cambio Por La Vida (Funcavid), to make microloans to the people of the Galapagos. The funds will provide immediate financial relief, address the basic needs of vulnerable families, allow children to stay in school and help sustainable businesses grow and begin developing new income sources, Lindblad said.
"The people of Galapagos are struggling more than I've seen in my 53year relationship with the Islands," said CEO Sven Lindblad in a statement. "Stimulating the local economy through community microloans has the power to activate a thriving system helping entrepreneurs and small-business owners develop new ideas to complement sustainable tourism and meeting the needs of the local community long after the pandemic is over."
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Amy Berquist, the line's vice president of conservation, education and sustainability, said Lindblad's local staff confirm that island families are struggling.
"As a company we care so much about the people in the field," she said. "They are the ones that bring our experiences to life."
Berquist said that Lindblad chose to support Funcavid in the hopes that small microloans would "reenergize the Galapagos economy" and reduce local reliance on tourism, so that they are better prepared for future downturns.
The small-ship line, which has been operating trips to the Galapagos for more than 50 years, said that in the first two months of the pandemic alone, the islands' economy lost $50 million, almost a quarter of its annual income. The Galapagos Chamber of Tourism recently reported that the number of visitors between July and October dropped 95%.
Lindblad said the economic devastation poses a serious threat to the conservation of the pristine archipelago and hopes that the funds enable the community to continue protecting the unique ecosystems and wildlife of their island home.
The main fundraising mechanism will be outreach to Lindblad guests who have sailed to the Galapagos. The cruise line has also set up a matching program, where every $1 donated to the Galapagos Island Relief Fund will be matched at least three times, dollar for dollar, once by Lindblad Expeditions (up to US $50,000), once by Sven and Kristin Lindblad's personal charity, the Wanderlust Fund (up to $50,000), and once by Lindblad Expeditions' board of directors (up to $50,000).
Berquist said that some past guests have already asked if there was any way to help the communities they visited with Lindblad.
"Our travelers tend to be the kind who are passionate and empathetic," she said. "Especially for the places they've been."
Anyone interested in supporting the Galapagos Island Relief Fund can visit islandrelief.fund.