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Sustainable tourism case study
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The Galapagos Islands – A case study of Ecotourism

 The Galapagos Islands are a small chain of islands found 1,000km from the West coast of South America.  They are Ecuadorian, and are home to an incredible array of animals and plants. 

   Map of the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are most famous because many of the plants and animals found there are not found anywhere else in the world.  This is because the islands are isolated or cut off from the rest of the World’s land mass by the Pacific Ocean, allowing the plants and animals to EVOLVE in their own way for hundreds of thousands of years.  This was noted by Charles Darwin, and spurred him on to form his famous theory of evolution.  Approximately 90% of the Islands are designated as National parks and there are only 20,000 permanent human residents (although this has risen from 9,000 only 20 years ago), allowing for a high degree of protection of the environment.    The area became the first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and they are also a biosphere reserve.

 Galapagos tourism

The Galapagos Islands represent a place in the world were ECOTOURISM takes place.   This is environmentally friendly tourism where the people involved seek to protect the environment as much as possible and to allow for some level of education as well.  In many cases of ecotourism, some of the profits go back into protecting the environment and the tourism is small scale, with low visitor number densities and environmental approaches to accommodation and food.  For example, I have stayed in an ecotourism lodge in Puerto Maldonado in Peru, where tours of the Amazon forest take place for tourists staying in small wooden huts there is limited electricity and waste is dealt with on site, and the food at the resort is sourced locally.   The Galapagos are run along these lines because;

Tourists visit under strict rules

They can only visit on small ships of 10 to 16 tourists, most of which are owned by local people

The tourists can only visit a limited number of places on the Islands, thus protecting the rest of the Islands

The tourists are only allowed to visit in small numbers.

Visitors also receive information on how to conserve the Islands prior to their departure to the Islands.

They also have to pay a £25 fee to promote conservation on the Islands


 Despite all of this, there are still some problems from the overuse of some sites (honey pot sites), oil spills from boats, and pollution to the Islands water supply and the water supply is put under pressure from the tourists use.


However, local people make a valuable living from tourism and there are few other employment opportunities available.  Tourists also generate a lot of businesses in the local economy as guides, restraints, hotels, boats owners and cleaners all benefit.

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National Geographic video on the Galapagos Islands 

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