Monday, March 24, 2008

Galápagos Islands - Perils of Mass Tourism

Galápagos Islands, the world’s first World Heritage Site is under threat due to mass tourism. Galápagos Islands has unique native species that are said to be the instigation behind Darwin’s theories on evolution and natural selection. Visitor numbers to the islands have grown phenomenally. The crisis afflicting the islands is not only a direct result of the rise in tourism but also from a change in the type of travellers visiting the area. Nature-loving tourists, who were easily accommodated by smaller, locally owned tour operators characterized early tourism in the Galápagos. The new type of tourists often prefers high level of comfort available from large tour operators and vessels. Tourists coming by big vessels are not staying in locally run hotels or eating in the local restaurants. Local guys are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the mainly foreign-run large-scale operators. Out of $418 million generated by tourism annually in the Galápagos, only $63 million is estimated to enter the local economy. Increased risk of infection and introduction of non-native plant species looms large. The delicate ecosystem is in great danger.

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