TED Case Studies

Galapagos Tourism

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          CASE NUMBER:          89 
          CASE NAME:          Galapagos Tourism


1.        The Issue

     Recent years have seen the rapid expansion of the tourism
industry, with a growing demand for "specialized" tourism, in
particular, tourism to protected natural areas.  This new trend
is most often termed "ecotourism" or "nature tourism." 
Unfortunately, the growing demand for tourism to protected areas
has outpaced the ability to sustain the protected area.  The
influx of tourist and immigrants to the Galapagos Islands has
begun to spell disaster for the islands as we know them.

2.        Description

     In the early autumn of 1835, a British naturalist, Charles
Darwin landed the H.M.S. Beagle on a small group of Pacific
islands he referred to as "a little world within itself." 
Darwin's biological and scientific exploration of the islands
would forever change the way in which man viewed his development
on the planet.  Since Darwin's time, this archipelago 600 miles
off the coast of Ecuador has been renowned as a naturalist's
dream, but fascination with the island's unique flora and fauna,
which evolved for eons insulated from human disruption, has also
planted the seeds of their possible demise.  Today, this fragile
environment faces a surge of new tourism and immigration that
threatens to destroy the environmental purity of the volcanic
islands, wipe out entire species of plants and animals and
forever alter an ecology that has allowed people a distinct
vision of their past.

     In 1959, the centennial year of Darwin's visit, Ecuador
recognized the unique biological and historical significance of
the islands by declaring the 90 percent of the island's 3,000
square miles that were uninhabited a national park.  The
following year, the Charles Darwin Research Institute was founded
with a mandate to ensure the conservation of unique Galapagos
ecosystems and to promote scientific research.  Until the 1960s,
the tourism industry in Ecuador was very small and limited to a
few adventure travelers from North America and Europe, as well as
some border tourism from Colombia and Peru.  In 1969, the cruise
ship "Lina A" began to offer tours to the Galapagos Islands, and
a new tourist boom began.

     Although it was the private sector that gave tourism its
first big push in the late 1960s, the Ecuadoran government formed
the National Tourism Board (DITURIS) in 1974 to develop the
tourism industry.  At the same time, the government also passed
the Tourism Development Law to regulate activities in the tourism
sector (travel agencies and hotels, for example) and to provide
incentives for investment in tourism.

     Under the administration of the Ministry of Industry
Commerce and Integration, the role of DITURIS is to coordinate
the tourism industry, specifically integrating the public and
private sectors.  DITURIS has three main departments: promotion,
technical operations, and administration.  Their functions
include: regulating restaurant and hotel prices, approving
licenses for tourism enterprises and for duty-free imports of
capital equipment for tourism businesses, evaluating tourism
projects and providing technical assistance, gathering and
disseminating statistical information, preparing and distributing
promotional material, working with international and domestic
airlines to promote tourism to and within Ecuador, training, and
encouraging private investment for tourism projects as needed.

     In 1984, a Master Development Program for Tourism was
drafted.  The plan outlined priorities for tourism development as
well as constraints.  Among the priorities identified were
developments of beaches in each of the costal provinces, electric
light facilities, and the improvement of statistics and tourist
information.  The primary constraint listed were inadequate
promotion and lack of high-quality accommodations.

     These investments and projects initiated by the Ecuadoran
government have greatly increased the number of people, and money
flowing into the Galapagos.  Unfortunately, the two have not
consistently complemented one another.  The impact of increased
tourism on the Galapagos Islands is twofold: economic and
environmental.  An examination of both aspects yields astonishing

     At the national level, income is generated for the national
park system through entrance fees to the Galapagos.  Foreign and
Ecuadoreans are separated into two lines at Galapagos airports;
foreigners pay 80 cents a person for admission.  Until 1993,
Ecuadoreans paid 40 cents.  The government realized that national
visitors were grossly undertaxed, and has since raised their
admission fee to $6.  All of this income goes to the national
park service to be distributed among all Ecuadoran parks. 
Galapagos receives the biggest portion of the income, about fifty
percent of the total.  Roughly twenty-five percent of the funds
for the Galapagos go to finance its tourism program, including
operational costs for ticket sales, park guards, and patrol boat

     In the last 10 years, debt-ridden Ecuador has moved swiftly
to take short-term economic advantage of the Galapagos.  Tourism,
which generates $175 million a year, is a potential growth
industry for Ecuador, much of which is tied to the Islands.  As
a result of nature tourism, the Gross National Product of the
Galapagos Islands province is the highest in Ecuador.  Income
at the national level is also generated through the many
Ecuadoran travel agencies that offer trips to the Galapagos. Many
guides are also drawn from the mainland to work on the islands. 

     The government has moved to capitalize on this growth,
encouraging increases in tourism, albeit within strict
guidelines.  The influx of the tourist industry on the islands
has led to an increase in immigration from the Ecuadoran
mainland.  Many Ecuadoreans have taken advantage of employment
opportunities on the islands, and have seen tourist dollars as
the key to a better life.  At the same time, they are increasing
the pressures on the Galapagos' already scarce resources, from
fresh water, to sand, to seafood.  The local population has
increased from 6,119 to about 14,000 in the last eight years, and
is growing at a steady rate of 12 percent per year. 

     Apart from draining precious resources such as water, the
natives and immigrants of the islands are contributing to its
ecological demise through their entrepreneurial efforts.  Natives
have turned remote fishing villages into a string of discos,
restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops.  They have converted
plants and animals into souvenirs.  Local divers have devastated
black coral formations, itself an endangered species, turning
their catch into an array of jewelry that is a popular item among
the tourists (see CORAL case).

     Although the seas around the islands have been a protected
marine reserve since 1986, illegal fishing continues, day and
night -- particularly shark-fishing, apparently as a result of
close cooperation between Ecuadoran, Japanese and Korean
interests (see SHARK case).  The demand for shark fins has deadly
results: the nets catch all kinds of animals, including Galapagos
penguins, dolphins, flightless cormorants, sea lions and the sea
iguanas.  People from the mainland who have flooded the islands 
to staff hotels or crew boats generally have no knowledge of
conservation.  They dump refuse overboard, allowing turtles to
eat plastic sacks, and catch lobsters when they are carrying eggs
or is too small, causing serious overfishing.  In addition to
this overfishing, the Charles Darwin Research Center has
documented at least seven cases in 1993 where the local
population has killed giant tortoises for their meat (see SEACUKE

     Of course, the main focus of this research is the impact of
tourist.  Traditionally, the islands have had more international
than national visitors.  Tourism influx to the Galapagos
increased by 335 percent from 1974 with only 7,500 visitors, to
1987, which recorded 32,595 visitors.  While no official figures
exist for 1993, estimates of the number of visitors range in the
area of 45,000.  Their arrival has been facilitated by the
government, which opened a third airport on the islands in 1986.

     Most tourists to the islands do not stay in one of the local
hotels, but immediately transfer to a cruise ship.  These cruise
ship tours usually last from three days to two weeks, and
depending on itinerary, visit between five and 11 islands.  To
minimize the negative impact, the park service has designated 45
approved visitor sites around the archipelago.  Tourists are
required to stay on marked pathways at most sites and all must be
accompanied by a trained naturalist guide.  Many trail weaves
through nesting colonies of sea birds, such as the blue-footed-
booby, flightless cormorants, gulls and frigate birds.  Tourist
often make the mistake of startling the birds when attempting to
get close, causing them to fly from their nests and leaving an
egg or chick exposed.  A newly hatched booby chick will die
within 30 minutes if exposed to the equatorial sun.

     One of the most remarkable features of the Galapagos is the
number of "endemic beings," plants or animals that are found only
in one particular place.  Although the Galapagos have a small
number of native species, a large number of these are endemic. 
About one-third of the native plant species, which number less
than 600, are found only here.  Of the reptiles, land birds and
mammals -- only 57 species in all -- more than 80 percent are
found nowhere else in the world.  Among these is the world's only
marine lizard, the only species of penguin and albatross found in
the tropics, and a cormorant that has lived so long in the
absence of predators that it has lost is ability to fly.  Also,
a number of Galapagos species are found only on a single island,
with a nearly identical but distinct species on a neighboring

     When people first arrived in the Galapagos there were seven
different species of rice rat, descendants of the only
terrestrial mammals to have survived the ocean journey.  Today
only two of the species remain, each on a single island, and each
unable to live on any island where the black (ship) rat has taken
hold.  The Galapagos' has witnessed the extinction of three of
the 14 races of giant tortoises, and only a single individual
remains of a fourth.  Feral pigs, goats, dogs and cats,
introduced by immigrants, have all been detrimental to the native

     Newly introduced fire ants, many of which are transported on
planes and boats, could upset the delicate balance of the insect
population, which in turn serves the diet of many birds. Visitors
to the islands unknowingly contribute to the spread of seeds,
spores and insects from one island to the next on their clothes
and soles of their shoes.  In the last five years, more than
100 new plant species have been introduced to the islands, many
inadvertently by cargo boats and tourists.  These include
aggressive species such as leafy green lantana, which overwhelms
native plants, and the guava tree, which forms a canopy that
prevents the sun from nurturing the indigenous seedlings.

     Many tourists are astounded by the tranquility of the 
islands and the animals.  Sea lions will playfully swim within
inches of the masks of divers, and giant tortoises will allow you
to touch their craggy shells.  Unfortunately, visitors have taken
to feeding many animal species, which has proven extremely

     Many animals became dependent upon being fed, and when the
extra feeding was curtailed under Park Service purview, they were
unable to locate their natural food sources.  Although it is
strictly forbidden to leave trash on the islands or in the
waters, such disposal still occurs, including the emptying of
sewage tanks by tourist ships right into the water.  The Charles
Darwin Research Station has conducted autopsies on sea turtles
only to discover that they died from swallowing plastic, (which
they mistook for jellyfish), a material that blocks their
digestive tracts.  Sea lions have cut their sensitive muzzles
playing with tin cans that have fallen to the ocean floor.  In
addition, sea lions that populate highly visited diving areas and
beaches have recently taken to chasing tourist who get too close. 
Scientists have recorded marked increases in their nervousness
and aggressiveness.

     Programs and institutions on all levels have begun to try to
slow the speed at which the islands are being devastated. 
Mentioned above is the fact that the government of Ecuador took
moves in the 1960s and 1970s to designate and protect the
Galapagos as a nature preserve and national park. In addition, in
1978, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) declared the archipelago to be a Natural
World Heritage Site.  Despite these good intentions, the
infrastructure, including enforcement officials, cannot simply
keep pace with the influx of visitors and immigrants.

     In 1987, the government imposed a restriction on the number
of tourist allowed to visit, set at 25,000.  That year alone the
limit was broke and has not since been enforced.  Ecuador cannot
afford to ignore the awesome power of the tourist dollar,
particularly as the country is obliged to pay the lion's share of
support for the islands, considering nearly 55 cents on every
tourist dollar in developing countries goes back to the
industrialized nations.  

3.        Related Cases

     CORAL case
     SHARK case
     BARRIER case
     SEACUKE case
     GUANO case

     Key Word Clusters

     (1) Trade Product             =    TOURism
     (2) Bio-geography             =    TROPical
     (3) Environmental Problem     =    HABITat Loss

4.        Draft Author: James Grall

B.        LEGAL Cluster

5.        Discourse and Status: DISagreement and Allegation 

     The general discourse of this case may be one of
disagreement between several parties and the pressures that bear
upon them.  They include: (1) the financially-strapped Ecuadoran
government, which cannot afford to lose the foreign exchange that
the tourist trade brings, nor can it afford to maintain the
Galapagos Park in a fashion that will prevent its ecological
demise; (2) Ecuadoran natives, lured to the islands by the
promise of economic well-being, who generally have little
knowledge of conservation and add to ecological demise; (3)
environmentalists and scientists who prefer to see the island
used for scientific purposes, and at a minimum, to strictly
control the type of tourist-related activity allowed to take
place; and (4) the "ecotourists," who for various reasons wish to
see the islands remain open for their pleasure.

6.        Forum and Scope: ECUADor and UNILATeral

     Any imposition of restrictions or limitations as they relate
to this case must come from the Ecuadoran government, in the form
of domestic legislation or decrees enforced through DIURTIS and
the Park Service.  It is plausible that due to the international
scope of the scientific research carried out on the islands, as
well as the international benefits, that pressure could come from
UNESCO, the UN or another international agency to place
restrictions on the use of the islands.

7.        Decision Breadth: 1 (Ecuador)

     In simple terms, any legislation that evolves for this case
will involve one country, Ecuador.  As alluded to above, it is
possible that other nations or international organizations could
become involved.

8.        Legal Standing: LAW

     Currently, the laws that could affect the growth of tourism
and its negative impact are regulated by the Servicio Parque
Nacional Galapagos (National Park Service), and are thus national
laws.  Laws also are in place concerning the process for
obtaining permits to opening a tour boat operation, hotel,
restaurant, airline usage of airports, littering, and licensing
of tour guides/naturalist.  

C.        GEOGRAPHIC Cluster

9.        Geographic Locations

     The geographic domain of this case is limited to the
Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of 11 islands measuring 3,000
square miles in area, located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador
in the Pacific Ocean.  This would include the islands proper, as
well as the state of Ecuador (see ECUADOR case).

     A.   Geographic Domain: South America [SAMER]
     B.   Geographic Site:   Western South America [WSAMER]
     C.   Geographic Impact: ECUADor (Galapagos Islands)  

10.       Sub-national Factors: YES

11.       Type of Habitat: TROPical

     The habitat of the islands is identified as tropical rainy
forest and savanna.  

D.        TRADE Clusters

12.       Type of Measure: Regulatory Standard [REGSTD]

     The types of measures used to regulate the number of tourist
to the Galapagos and thus the degree of impact upon the islands
can take several forms.  Licensing guidelines are currently in
place with regard to training and qualifications for naturalist
guides, who, in addition to being knowledgeable about the
ecosystem, are responsible for their groups, and any
inappropriate behavior they exhibit.  This would involve
littering to wandering off marked and designated trails.  Similar
licenses exist for boat operators, hotels, restaurants, shops,
etc.  Unfortunately enforcement of these regulations is extremely
week.  Although the islands have four park service patrol boats,
most tourist report only ever seeing one in operation.

     In late 1993, with financial assistance from the Spanish
government, the Ecuadoreans began a three-year program to improve
environmental awareness between visitors and residents. 
Construction has begun on three visitor reception centers, one
for each island with an airport. The idea is for every tourist to
go directly from the plane to the center, where they will be
briefed on the proper behavior while visiting the islands, in the
interest of the environment.  Another possible measure would be
to impose quotas, in terms of the number of visitors that could
enter the islands each year.  This research notes that this was
attempted in 1987, and failed, and has since not been implemented

13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect

     Any measures aimed at restricting the flow of visitors to
the Galapagos will have a direct impact on the amount of dollars
generated by tourist related activities.  In turn, environmental
legislation has the potential to decrease the number of visitors
directly impacting their toll on the islands, as well as the
money they put into the Ecuadoran economy.  At the same time,
severely restricted "natural experiences" could directly deter
potential visitors from the islands.  

14.       Relation of Measure on Environmental Impact

     A. Directly Related:     YES TOURism
     B. Indirectly Related:   YES
     C. Not Related:          NO
     D. Related to Process:   YES HABITat Loss

15.       Trade Product Identification: TOURism

16.       Economic Data

17.       Impact of Trade Restriction

18.       Industry Sector: SERVices

19.       Exporters and Importers: MANY and ECUADor

E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters

20.       Environmental Problem Type: HABITat Loss

     The types of environmental problems can be divided into
"source" and "sink" problems.  Source problems address the
general "loss" of plant and animal life and the destruction of
their natural habitat.  The islands continue to lose many species
of animals which make their home on land and in the sea, as well
as in the air (in the case of birds).  The harvesting of coral
for retail sale by the Island's natives and immigrant populations
has led to the near extinction of black coral in the waters
around the islands.

     Tourist and inhabitants of the Islands alike have greatly
increased the severity of sink problems.  The air, land and sea
have been polluted with the dumping of trash and other waste. 
These problems can only be viewed as a direct result of human
activity in the Galapagos.

21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species

     Name:          Many 
     Type:          Many
     Diversity:     6,421 higher plant per km/sq (Ecuador)  

     The number and name of species that are at risk because of
the amount of tourism to the Galapagos is extensive.  A partial
list follows in Table 89-1.

                          Table 89-1
                   Galapagos Species At Risk

     Blue Footed Booby - Scula nebouxii
     Flightless Commorant - Phalacrocurax harrisi
     Black Coral
     Galapagos Sea Lions --Zalophus Californius wollebaeki
     Marine Iguanas
     Galapagos Penguins - Spheniscus mendiculus
     Giant Tortoises
     Yellow Land Iguanas
     Masked Booby
     Waved Albatross -- Diomedea irrovata
     Sally Lightfoot Crab -- Graspus
     Guinea Fowl Puffer Fish -- Arthron meleagris
     Rice Rat - Oryzomys palustric, O.galapagoensis, O. bauri
     Great Frigate Bird -- Fregata minor

22.       Resource Impact and Effect: LOW

     While the problems of pollution and waste had adverse
effects on native species, the land and the sea, the problem is
not yet so severe that it cannot be easily corrected.  This would
require the imposition of strict laws with regard to dumping of
waste, as well as stricter enforcement by the Government and Park
Service officials.

     Resource depletion problems might best be rated anywhere
along the continuum of low too high. Obviously, the fact that
several species of plant and animal life have completely
disappeared from the islands deserves to be considered as "high. 
At the same time, many species are experiencing loss. 
Nevertheless, this loss could be severely slowed or completely
stopped if Government officials take appropriate action and
visitors exercise more caution and responsibility.

23.       Urgency of Problem: MEDium 

     Much debate is going on as to whether or not the flora and
fauna of the islands are really in danger of becoming extinct.

24.       Substitutes: Ecotourism [ECOTR]

     No substitutes for these species exist.  No substitutes for
the "natural experiences" of ecotourism exist.  Control of the
number and activities of tourists could minimize the impact.

F.        Other Factors

25.       Culture:  NO

26.       Trans-Boundary: NO

27.       Human Rights  NO

28.       Relevant Literature

Bavendem, Fred.  "The Anomalous Galapagos."  Oceans 20
     (November/December, 1987): 26-35.
Boo, Elizabeth.  Ecotourism: The Potentials and Pitfalls,
     vol.1/2.  Washington, D.C.: World Wildlife Fund, 1990.
Brooke, James.  "Where Man Meets Beast, A Conflict."  New York
     Times, November 28, 1993, 5(12).
Budd, Jim.  "Ecotourism is fastest growing leisure segment."
     Travel Weekly 52/82 (October 18, 1993): 39.
Coe, Edward M. and Gee, Chuck Y.  "Plan Estrategico De
     Commercializacion del Tourismo en el Ecuador." Private
     Sector Initiatives Project, Agency for International
     Development (AID), 1986.
Dillard, Annie.  "Life on the Rocks..."  EPA Journal 
     17 (July/August 1991): 61-2.
Edington, Ann and Edington, John.  Ecology, Recreation and
     Tourism.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Emory, Jerry.  "Managing Another Galapagos Species - Man"
     National Geographic Magazine 173/1: 146-154.
Frechtling, Douglas C.  "Assessing the Impacts of Travel and 
     Tourism - Measuring Economic Benefits."  In Travel, Tourism
     and Hospitality Research - A Handbook for Managers and
     Researchers, eds. J.R.B. Richie and C.R. Goeldner, New York:
     Random House, 333-351.
Freuh, Susanne.  "Report to World Wildlife Fund on Tourism to 
     Protected Areas."  1988.
"Galapagos Imperiled by Influx."  Los Angeles Times,
     15 October 1990, A(1).
Homstrom, David.  "Survival of the Galapagos."  Christian Science
     Monitor, August 20, 1991, 12.
"International Tourism Reports."  No.1 National Report No. 129.
     The Economist 1987.
"Islands At Risk."  UNESCO Courier (October 1987):20-22.
     Jenssen, Hugo Lauritz.  "Saving the Galapagos: Tourism
     Threatens the Environment of the Galapagos Islands."  World
     Press Review 40/7 (July, 1993): 44.
Larman, Jan G. and Perdue, Richard R.  "Nature Travel in the 
     Tropics: Is This Growing Enterprise a Trend in Wildlands
     Management?" Journal of Forestry 85/5.
Lewin, R.  "Galapagos: The Rise of Optimism."  New Scientist 
     79: 261-263.
Maning, Robert E.  "International Aspects of National Park
     Systems: Focus on Tourism."  In Tourism Planning and
     Development Issues, eds. Hawkins, Donald E. and Elwood,
     Shafer and Rovelstad, James M., Washington D.C.: George
     Washington University Press, 1980, 179-192.
Mathieson, Allister and Wall, Geoffrey.  Tourism: Economic, 
     Physical and Social Impacts.  London: Longman, 1982.
Miller, Alan.  "Ecotourists Swamp the Galapagos.:  The Toronto 
     Star, November 10, 1990, Science D(6).
Miranda, Kenneth and Muzando, Timothy R.  "Public Policy and the
     Environment."  IMF Finance and Development 28 no.2 (June
     1991): 25-32.
"Nature Tourism and Enterprise Development in Ecuador," in FPEI
     Working Paper No. 27, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1987.
Salazar, A.P. and Clark, J.R.  "Ecuador's Active Conservation
     Program."  Parks 6/4: 7-10.
Starkey, Nancy.  "A Sampling of Expeditions."  New York Times,
     May 19, 1991, 5(15).
Upton, Kim.  "Eco-Sensitive Galapagos to allow cruise ships."
     Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1991, L(4).
Villa, J.L. and Ponce, A. "Islands for People and Evolution: The
     Galapagos," In National Parks, Conservation and
     Development, eds. McNeely, J.A. and Miller, K.R. 
     Proceedings of the World Congress on National Parks,
     Bali, Indonesia. (October 11-12, 1982)
Wilson, Mystie A.  "Nature-Oriented Tourism in Ecuador:
     Assessment of Industry Structure and Development
     Needs," in FPEI Working Paper No. 20, Raleigh, North
     Carolina, 1987.


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