The tourism industry plays a very important role in not only the economy of the Galapagos Islands but also in its society and its environment. In 2001 alone, the tourism industry of Ecuador generated more than $430 million American dollars and employed more than 72,000 people in formal tourism enterprises (Valdivieso, 2003). These numbers not only show the amount of dollars generated by this industry (thus the economic and political importance), but also the large amount of the population affected by the tourist industry. Seventy-thousand tourists and upwards of that number are expected to visit the Galapagos Islands each yeah, greatly outnumbering the native population of this archipelago. The lives of many Galapagueños depend on this industry. The environment can be negatively affected by the tourists, primarily through the introduction of invasive species that help lead to the extinction of endemic species.
The plan to regulate the tourist industry is not to work through government laws and enforce restriction of actions, but to highly suggest positive environmental actions by allowing those that follow ORGALA's regulations to advertise their companies as "ORGALA-certified green agencies."
A form of this program is already in place by the Conservation and Development in cooperation with the Rainforest Alliance, which has declared complying tourist companies as "SmartVoyager Certified" since 2001. The project's main objective is "to create, test and implement a system to certify and award an ecological seal to those tourist transport operations in the Galapagos that comply with a set of environmental and social standards" (Rainforest Alliance, 2004). This program being successfully implemented, having certified five of the twenty large tour vessels that travel the Galapagos within one yeah as well as many of the smaller tour vessels, ORGALA plans to build upon the program and expand it.
Tourists can be persuaded to use ORGALA-certified tourist agencies through desire to help the environment and also through ORGALA's funding of personal relations and advertisement in favor of the certification. For example, flyers can be distributed by certified agencies stating and describing their certification as a "green agency." (For an example of a flyer used to promote SmartVoyager, see here: http://www.ecoventura.com/conservation/Archivos%20pdf/Tourism%20Eric%20fact%20sheet%20for%20staterooms%20with%20horizon%20091002.pdf). The certification can even be expanded to other industries (for example: restaurants, hotels, plumbers, public transportation) and cross-linked to persuade tourists to use only ORGALA-certified companies.
The regulations for tourists on the Galapagos Islands would include regulating education for tourists and tourist industry employees, and designating exact locations and times for tours.
Locations for the tourist industry buildings must follow rules for all industry buildings, meaning they must exist only inside business zones of cities. No structures outside of these zones may be built, including at locations where tourists are traveling the island environment. Boats owned by the tourist industries are regulated accordingly as any other boats. They must be constructed of environmentally-safe materials, as declared by ORGALA, and be run by environmentally-safe processes, preferably solar power.
Tourism industries must train all employees, especially tour guides, on the environment of the Galapagos and on environmentally-friendly behaviors. Current regulations require all tourists who travel inside the National Park to be accompanied by a park tour guide who not only educates the tourists on the environment, but also keeps them from breaking any of the park rules. These park guides are trained in conservation and natural sciences by the Charles Darwin Foundation and licensed by the Galapagos National Park Service. This process should continue, as well as for any guide for the tourist industry to follow the same procedures.
Tourist agencies are also required to educate all tourists on:
-- Invasive species in the Galapagos
-- Endangered species of the Galapagos
-- Endangered ecosystem of the Galapagos
-- Environmentally friendly actions: how not to affect the environment and what negatively affects it.
A suggestion is that tourist agencies make an attempt to take tourists to one of the Environmental Education Centers (EEC). These centers, sponsored by the Charles Darwin Research Center (CDRS) have been popular with the residents in educating them on topics immersed in the life of the Galapagueños, such as the Marine Reserve, the dangers of introduced species, and Galapagos society and conservation (CDF, 2000).
Tourists may be regulated by the National Park Service (the Park Service is assumed to work in the best interest of the environment, as persuaded to by ORGALA) as to where they may travel. The National Park Service will keep its current zoning system of which individuals may go where (separated by park rangers, scientists, and others) and its designated tourists sites as well. Every site will have designated paths for the tourists. These designated sites and paths may change from previously regulated (even though highly suggested not to do so) and if so must have input from the community, perhaps through a forum at a designated time and place that may be easily reached by residents where the residents may vocally submit their suggestions and reasons as to where the tourists may be permitted to travel within the Park. The tourist industry must also give input through the same process. The Park Service is not required to follow these submissions however but is suggested to do so.
The timing of tours may also be regulated. The tours will be assigned which path to take by a Park Service ranger upon the basis of which path has seen the least visitors (in order to minimize the negative impacts on single locations and bio-communities). Also, tourists will not be allowed to enter breeding areas of endemic species during breeding season. This is to protect the reproduction of native species and ensure the biodiversity of the Galapagos.
Charles Darwin Foundation. Projections. "Environmental Education Centers." April 2000.
Conservation and Development, Rainforest Alliance. "Environmental Certification Program for Tourism Boat Operations in the Galapagos Islands." January 2001.
Mandala Projects, The. "Galapagos Tourism." January 1997.
Rainforest Alliance. "ERIC: A SMARTVOYAGER CERTIFIED BOAT." 2001.
--. "SmartVoyager Program." October 2004.
Valdivieso, Jose, et al. "Ecuador: Fostering Environmentally Sustainable Tourism and Small Business Innovation and Growth in the Galapagos." En Breve. No. 26. June 2003.