If you’re returning to the Galapagos Islands and feel like the entry fee is significantly higher than you remember, well, that’s because it is. Starting next year, the entry fee for Galapagos National Park will rise from $100 for foreign visitors to $200. For visitors who aren’t spending time on mainland Ecuador and only wish to visit the park for a night or two, the fee will even steeper at $400.
The fee is a response to rising tourism on the archipelago and its harmful effect on the fragile ecosystem. “The entrance fee has not increased in 20 years,” said Daniela Tamayo Cordova of the Galapagos Government Council, “and costs in Galapagos and Ecuador have risen over this time. The increased income will be used to improve sustainability, tourist experiences, and conservation and management.”
Tourism on the islands is rising at a staggering rate, with 275,000 visiting the islands last year compared to just 173,000 in 2008. UNESCO lists tourism as one of the main threats to the Galapagos’ infrastructure and habitats. With the islands’ current resources, managing this influx of visitors is tough, especially with regard to trash collection, water filtration, and enforcing rules on wildlife interaction.
Alex Cox, a local guide, believes that fewer tourists would actually create a better, more sustainable situation. Although it may create a “complicated job situation among people in Galapagos involved in providing tourism services,” he said, “Galapagos is not for mass tourism. Conservation might require some sacrifice from us in order to partially achieve ecosystems rebound.”
Currently, part of the fee goes toward protecting 97 percent of the uninhabited islands in the archipelago. It’s unclear where the new funds will be allocated, though they are certain to be dedicated to some form of ecological management.