The International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) is calling on the government of Ecuador to better regulate and limit land-based tourism to the Galapagos Islands.
The organization said its plea follows a recent UNESCO report that raised concerns about unsustainable tourism growth in the Galapagos.
The IGTOA wants the Ecuadorian government to adopt a zero-growth Galapagos tourism strategy that will regulate land-based tourism to the islands, just as the country has regulated ship-based tourism there.
Statistics published by Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism show that tourist arrivals have increased from 170,000 annual visitors in 2010 to more than 270,000 arrivals in 2019, a 59% increase. In April, the ministry announced the islands received a record 32,509 visitors in March, a 24% increase over March 2019.
"Many of our members sell land-based tours. But it needs to be as well regulated and well managed as the ship-based sector of the industry," said Jim Lutz, IGTOA board president and founder of Vaya Adventures. "For many years, Ecuador's management of ship-based tourism in the Galapagos has served as a model for the rest of the world for how tourism and nature can successfully coexist. We believe a similar approach needs to be adopted with respect to land-based tourism. It is simply not sustainable to have never-ending tourism growth of any kind in a place like the Galapagos."
In addition to the IGTOA's calls for government intervention, the organization also offered solutions that could help regulate land-based tourism to the Galapagos.
Increasing visitor fees by a substantial amount to be more in line with other nature destinations such as the Serengeti or Bhutan, along with placing a cap on the total number of hotels or visitors, are among the travel organization's suggestions.
IGTOA says similar measures taken to regulate Galapagos ship-based tourism have worked.