G Adventures Australia and New Zealand has raised over $15,000 for a community tourism initiative in Galapagos Islands that aims to put locals back in control of their hugely popular island tourist destination.
The G Adventures-Planeterra initiative, based on Floreana island, involves developing locally owned and run restaurants, guesthouses and transportation and represents the first time an entire island has come together to organise community tourism in the Galapagos.
The island is famous for Post Office Bay, which attracts thousands of visitors each year but until now, locals have seen no benefit from the huge flock of tourists.
“Many people think that the Galapagueños are rich owners of hotels and cruise boats, but this is far from true. The residents on Floreana often struggle to find opportunities for employment, so we are excited to be providing an initiative that will increase opportunities, especially for youth on the island,” explained Belinda Ward, Managing Director, G Adventures Australia and New Zealand.
G Adventures’ aim globally is to work with partners to ensure that the money travellers spend remains with the local communities, for this project the adventure tour company has partnered with Ecuador’s award-winning community tourism expert, Jascivan Carvalho of Tropic Ecotourism. The project, which began in November 2014, has already established a community tourism operations management system with the Floreana Community Association.
“The new tourism system enables family guesthouses to host G Adventures’ almost weekly tours, and includes an equitable rotation system for all community members involved. The family restaurants and transport owners on the island also participate in this management system to ensure all community members are benefitting equally,” explained Ward.
The next phase of the project, to be completed in 2016, will focus on developing activities such as kayaking, hiking, snorkelling, and diving. All profits will go back to the Floreana Community Association to be reinvested into the business as well as social and environmental conservation projects on the island.
“G Adventures and Planeterra have a history of working with rural communities who have lacked access to opportunities in tourism to bring them into the supply chain and therefore into the tourism economy,” said Ward.
G Adventures has had a connection with Galapagos for 15 years. In line with the company’s approach of working directly with local communities, the tour operator is working with its network on the ground to identify the needs of hundreds of people, many of whom depend on tourism as their livelihood.