Tourism is the principal economic activity in the Galapagos, dating back to the early 1970s when local communities offered tours around the islands on their personal fishing boats. Over the past three decades the number of visitors has increased to well over 100,000 tourists each year, and is now at a critical point. In particular, one of the islands in the archipelago, Floreana Island, has experienced a sharp increase in short day tours but residents have yet to be able to benefit from this growth. With job few opportunities from this added tourism, the community’s youth have been choosing to leave the island to study and they rarely return. Investing in training and infrastructure in Galapagos' first community-based tourism program benefits both the island’s young entrepreneurs and its unique wildlife, preserving Floreana for future travellers and islanders alike.
Planeterra has invested in a large scale training program to enable residents of Floreana Island to manage all aspects of tourism on their island. The community-owned-and-managed association will coordinate tourism activities such as guiding, trekking, kayaking and snorkeling; improving food services; developing business and hospitality management skills including accounting, reservations, etc. The goal is to provide job opportunities for the island’s 150 residents to benefit from the booming tourism industry. By controlling the number of arrivals to the island, and improving the experience with an overnight stay, we ensure that Floreana maintains its pristine habitat, clean waters, and natural heritage.
Santos is the only person in his mid twenties on the island. He says everyone has left looking for work, but he associated himself with a local community group as soon as they started investigating how the community could organize to manage and grow tourism sustainably on the island. Planeterra and its local partner, Waponi, hired Santos to be a project assistant throughout the process, and to assist the project manager in the development of the services of the community tour operations, such as rotating transport and restaurant services. Santos is planning to study tourism at university so he can come back and proudly manage tourism on his own island.