Implementing the new tourism model in Galapagos

Implementing the new tourism model in Galapagos

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

How can tourism be truly sustainable in a unique protected area such as the Galapagos Islands? Tourism has become the main economic activity and currently represents a potential threat to biodiversity and sustainable development. Our idea proposes a new tourism model for Galapagos to guarantee conservation and social well-being.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the last decade, the tourism activity in Galapagos has expanded drastically. Visitation in this period grew by 237% (around 160,000 tourists per year), creating a new “island-based tourism” which consequently has led to the appearance of external pressures on the inhabited areas and their natural protected surroundings. Some of the most important factors currently affecting the Galapagos are: unplanned infrastructure to accommodate the growing numbers of visitors; increased impact on water and energy consumption, and waste production; increased migration from mainland Ecuador following tourism-related job opportunities; and, disorganized development of related complimentary services, including illegal operations. While marine-based tourism operations are subject to thorough monitoring, as a result of decades of specific planning and management actions, less than adequate attention has been given to land-based and port-to-port tourism activities. Currently, there are more “land-based” tourists than “marine-based”, and this t tendency continues.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The growth and expansion of tourism in Galapagos has transformed this economic activity into a potential threat to biodiversity conservation, traditional social practices, and sustainable development. This is the reason why the key tourism stakeholders in Galapagos confirmed the imperative need to change the current tourism model into one that minimizes its environmental impact and maximizes its social benefits. Our idea is unique, because it proposes a vanguard solution to a unique tourism destination. It proposes the development of a new tourism model in Floreana Island, which is one of the four inhabited islands in the Galapagos, based on the principles of minimal environmental impact, and maximum social and cultural benefits. This means restructuring the development and management of the incipient tourism products and services available in Floreana, including working on some of the following aspects: implementing new public policies, setting construction standards and operating procedures, designing and implementing new activities, reducing the number of visitors to specific sites and opening new sites under the new principles, implementing technology to tourism management, strengthening the tourism value chain, incorporating traditional cultural aspects to the visitor experience, improving the local capacity, among others. By doing so, the new tourism model will ensure a balance between conservation, social development and cultural protection through the design and implementation of new products and services designed to follow the principles of environmental, social, economic, cultural and historical sustainability. This, in turn, can become a model for replication throughout Galapagos and in other island destinations worldwide.
About You
World Wildlife Fund
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Juan Carlos

Last Name



World Wildlife Fund


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Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

World Wildlife Fund

Organization Phone


Organization Address

Puerto Ayora

Organization Country

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on

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Website URL
Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

For the last decade, WWF has played a key role in providing support to different actors of the tourism sector, including public and private organizations. Our latest work included carrying out an assessment of tourism activity in Galapagos, as well as supporting the drafting of the new tourism management model. This model was analyzed and approved in several work meetings with key local tourism actors. Additionally, WWF played a key role supporting the Galapagos Governing Council, the Galapagos National Park, the three local Municipalities and the Ministry of Tourism in planning and organizing the Sustainable Tourism Summit Galapagos where the new tourism model was validated and became the starting point for several next steps to be taken. The Summit included the participation of national and international speakers, as well as over 100 representatives of public and private institutions. During the event, four strategic lines of action were identified in order to change the current tourism model: governance, product reengineering, marketing, and tourism monitoring. We continue working on all four lines, through alliances with key public and private organizations. Additionally, we acknowledge the need to show in the short-term tangible results locally in product reengineering. This is where we see Floreana as the ideal site for the implementation of the proposed idea; expecting tangible results in how tourism is managed, guaranteeing visibility and encouraging replication.


We are currently working on the following strategic lines of action in order to make this idea successful: a) collaborating with the different government levels present in Floreana (Government Council, National Park Service, Ministry of Tourism, the San Cristobal Municipality and the Floreana Parish) to strengthen their individual tourism management units, as well as to integrate them into a collaborative planning and execution system; b) designing and implementing a communication campaign to raise the level of awareness of the local population, visitors, and tourism operators and agencies about the principles of the new tourism model and how they apply to Floreana; and, c) designing and implementing an ecotourism pilot project in Floreana, together with the National Park Service and other partner institutions, in order to show in the mid-term new viable ecotourism products operating under the new model and the principles of sustainability.


The expected results are: a) tourism public policies supporting the new model designed and implemented in Floreana, to help the Parish develop an annual planning and management tool to guarantee the sustainable development of tourism, benefits and participation of local population, and conservation of the surrounding protected area and its biodiversity; b) increased budgets from public institutions supporting joint complimentary initiatives in Floreana, guaranteeing the permanent availability of funds to be specifically used to continue with the activities; c) improved awareness and acknowledgment among the local population, visitors, tour operators, agencies, and guides about the environmental, social, cultural standards and best practices regarding the new tourism model in Floreana; and, d) new ecotourism products and services, based on the principles of the new tourism model, designed, developed, and operating in Floreana.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Year 1: One of the most important factors affecting the success of the project will be maintaining the level of interest and support of the local population. The people from Floreana have insisted on addressing the current tourism development trend, recognizing the fragility of its island (both in terms of environment, as well as culture). They lead the process to implement the new tourism model, recognizing the potential that tourism but also acknowledging that an incipient tourism activity can follow the wrong direction if not properly planned and managed. Another important factor will be to confirm the commitment of the different public authorities to support the local community and its request for a change in the current tourism model. This will require the implementation of participatory planning processes to achieve clear and measurable results.
Year 2: Planning must be transformed into concrete actions in Floreana. And these actions, since they will be implemented by different organizations, must be adequately coordinated in order to complement each other and avoid duplication. It will be crucial to guarantee efficient levels of coordination among the different organizations involved. It will also be crucial to guarantee the continuity of all processes in case there are changes in the technical and administrative staff.
Year 3: These actions must be supported by tour operators and visitors. What is being proposed is a different type of tourism product in Galapagos, unique and innovative. In order to be commercially successful, tour operators, agencies, transport service providers, and other potential public and private tourism partners must fully support the new model and incorporate them into their plans and programs.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The following: a) the organizations involved are not able to translate their strategic alliances and compromises into concrete joint actions and interventions in Floreana. This may be caused primarily due to the different fiscal years for the different organizations involved, since this would not allow the adequate financial coordination and the implementation of different program timelines; b) the tour operators, agencies, and other actors with access to the different demand segments do not accept the new tourism model, and insist on the current one, which currently does not generate adequate participation nor benefits to the local population, and does not optimize the existing natural and cultural attractions potentially causing degradation to visitor sites due to overloading; c) the same points mentioned earlier occur when the Floreana model, although locally successful, is not successfully replicated throughout Galapagos, which would affect the implementation of the new model as the new model for the Galapagos Islands.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

World Wilflife Fund Galapagos Office

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Changing the tourism model implies a significant effort on different lines of action. This can only be achieved if all the organizations involved support each other, and work together implementing a wide range of activities. These activities include changes and improvements in policies, regulations, infrastructure, equipment, technology, capacity building, marketing, communication, education, among others. This is why WWF has established strategic alliances with key actors, and has strengthened the communication with them in order to prepare the base that will allow the successful implementation of this proposed innovation. Also, acknowledging the limited human and financial resources available to complete this significant challenge, it is also evident that these partnerships are crucial to achieve the proposed goals and implement concrete actions to produce tangible results as soon as possible.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The three most important actions needed to grow our initiative are: a) Provide and maintain permanent technical and financial assistance primarily to the Parish, and to a lesser degree other involved public institutions, to develop and legally establish, based on the principles of the new Galapagos tourism model, the tourism planning and management tool for Floreana. This will guarantee coordination and communication among the organizations involved, thus guaranteeing the sustainable development of tourism. This will in turn generate direct benefits and participation of the local population in the tourism value chain, and guarantee the preservation and conservation of the social structure, its traditions and cultural aspects, and of the protected area and its biodiversity; b) Design, develop, and implement new tourism products and services in Floreana based on the new tourism model. This will be the ideal mechanism to show tangible results and secure the support of the new tourism model by the local population, public institutions, as well as to establish key alliances with private partners; and, c) Use this initiative to educate and generate improved awareness and acknowledgment among the Galapagos population, local and international visitors, tour operators, agencies, guides, and other actors about the environmental, social, and cultural benefits generated by the new tourism model in Floreana. This will be crucial for replication in Galapagos and in other fragile and unique tourism destinations where tourism poses a potential threat to conservation and sustainable development.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

This occurred when the reality and impact of tourism in Galapagos became evident through various studies and reports developed after the UNESCO placed the Galapagos on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites in 2007. This event caused the start of a subsequent process, which proposed a fundamental change in how tourism is managed in Galapagos in order to minimize its impact and implement new sustainable practices to convert this economic activity into a true instrument of environmental conservation and social development. WWF became part of a group of public and private organizations that made substantial efforts to identify and diagnose the problems, and propose strategies for this change. This highly participatory process produced a permanent process of analysis, of which the main result was the proposal for a new tourism model that included detailed components and strategies. This proposal, in turn, became the main groundwork for the 1st Sustainable Tourism Summit: Galapagos 2010, held in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on September 22-24, 2010. The results of this Tourism Summit were highly motivating. For the first time ever public, private, and local stakeholders, although representing different perspectives, were able to acknowledge the main obstacles and challenges, and agree that the current tourism model needs to change in order to guarantee biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. The discussions generated common objectives, goals and actions on four prioritized areas: governance, product reengineering, marketing, and tourism monitoring. Following up on the Summit’s resolutions, WWF strengthened its support with the implementation of several key actions that promoted the change in the current tourism model. Our work in the four inhabited islands in Galapagos allowed us to identify, together with the Floreana Parish leaders and community members, as well as with other key actors like the Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, and the Ministry of Tourism, that Floreana arguably shows the best opportunity for the implementation of the new tourism model. Through discussions held with the representatives of these institutions, and with the local population, we confirmed that although tourism is incipient in this island, it is already starting to show potential sources of negative impact, both on nature and on the local population. The population, aware of the threats generated by tourism in the other islands, confirmed its decision to pursue a change in the current model in order to protect its island and become a model for development, sustainability and conservation.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

WWF has supported conservation efforts in Galapagos since the beginning of the 1960’s. WWF works in Galapagos with a comprehensive vision, playing a relevant role in the areas of tourism, fisheries, education, strengthening the participatory management system, governance, migration, waste management, etc. WWF has also established alliances with several local, national, and international organizations, and works in coordination with local and government authorities, decision makers from several sectors, and members of the local community.
Since then, WWF has worked in different fields. It has supported strengthening the capacity of the Galapagos National Park Service to perform control and patrolling activities in the Marine Reserve as well as the development of activities in research, environmental education, fisheries management, tourism and natural resources.
WWF also supported the approval of the 1998 Galapagos Special Law, which created the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In addition, WWF has worked to control migration to the islands by providing technical assistance for the implementation of technological systems to control and document the entry of permanent and temporary residents to the islands.
In 2007, WWF participated in discussions, provided information, and supported the decisions adopted by the UNESCO. In April of 2007, the Ecuadorian government issued a Presidential Decree declaring that the conservation and environmental management of the Galapagos ecosystem was at risk, as well as declaring the islands as a national priority. The decree proposed an agenda that included the development of a new vision for tourism. WWF is working to ensure that this vision for Galapagos becomes a reality. Its goal is to conserve a marine ecosystem that maintains abundant and diverse native species, together with the people who depend on this ecosystem for their livelihoods. In terrestrial areas, WWF works to prevent biodiversity loss while ensuring the sustainable development of inhabited areas, and that non-inhabited islands remain in pristine conditions.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Newsletter from Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?


Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

In Galapagos, WWF has managed projects funded with the collaboration and participation of international partners for over two decades, with a permanent presence that has allowed us to develop strong work relationships with all the local institutions.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below

What problem-area does your project address?

Access to knowledge and training.

How will your project address this problem?

By helping the local leaders develop the adequate planning and management tools, generating the knowledge and technical capacity among the local population to implement and operate new tourism products and services, and connecting this with outside support organizations to guarantee further support and commercial partnerships.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

Direct beneficiaries will be the local population of Floreana (120 people), who will develop new locally managed tourism products and services, ranging from boat operations, land transportation services, restaurants, accommodation services, guidance, and other complementary services such as boutiques, kayak and scuba gear rental services, and others.
At a regional level, the success of this initiative will also benefit the entire Galapagos Archipelago because it will create a model for replication throughout the islands.

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

It will create the first tangible model of a tourism product that follows the principles of ecotourism and sustainable tourism: the same principles advocated by the new tourism model in Galapagos. This is the result needed in Galapagos: a viable tourism operation which can be a model and be replicated in other areas of the Galapagos to establish tourism as a real mechanism for nature conservation, social development, cultural protection, and economic sustainability.

A. Total Budget (100%)

US$ 1.000.000

B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)

US$ 500.000

C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)

US$ 250.000

D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)

US$ 250.000