The principal economic activity in the Galapagos is tourism which started in the early 1970s when local people took visitors around on their fishing boats. Over the past three decades the number of visitors has increased to well over 100,000 tourists each year. The large majority of this tourism is cruise or yacht based, and land-based tourism is now seeing major growth. An issue with the land tourism is the way it is set up, currently day tours that go back and forth on speed boats from the main island of Santa Cruz, that visit other surrounding islands for a short time, and residents of islands such as Floreana, see little benefit or commuity control over their beautiful, fragile environments.
Residents of the few habited Galapagos Islands are virtually unseen and unknown, apart from the main island of Santa Cruz, and therefore they do not see benefits on their islands from visitors who pass through quickly on a day tour or on a cruise stop. The community of Floreana Island (famous for its Post Office Bay) have requested support to develop a new type of tourism in the Galapagos Islands – one that is managed by, and benefits, the local people. Planeterra and its local community development partner, Waponi, are devoted to bringing real economic benefits to island residents for the first time, improving access to opportunities for the 55 families on Floreana. Through 2015 will be developing a network of new micro-enterprises and family businesses that will provide tourism products and services for all visitors to the island including G Adventures travellers.
Donations will contribute to a large scale training program to enable residents of Floreana Island to manage all aspects of tourism activities on their island; for example, learning how to manage activities such as guiding, trekking, kayaking and snorkeling; improving food service and food handling; business and hospitality management skills including accounting, reservations, etc. The end goal is to establish a registered community tourism operator, completely owned and managed by the community association of Floreana, enabling its 150 residents to benefit from tourism for the first time. The goal of the community tourism enterprise is to control the number of arrivals to the island, improve the experience by requiring a minimum overnight stay, and to ensure Floreana maintains its pristine habitat, clean waters, and natural heritage.
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 km (620 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America. The archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and scores of islets that served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, the renowned evolution theorist. Long before Darwin arrived in the Galapagos, seafarers knew these isolated islands as home to some of the strangest and most wonderful wildlife imaginable, including birds that could swim but no longer fly, aquatic iguanas, dragon-like lizards left over from prehistoric times, and the giant Galapagos tortoises for which the islands were named. Covering nearly 5000 square km (3100 square miles), the Galapagos Islands are one of the most important and significant National Parks in the world.