Environmental Commitment, Ecological Conservancy and Responsible Tourism
Ecotourism allows a place such as Galapagos, a pristine and untainted ecologically sound environment, to keep its fundamental nature and, at the same time, to grow and benefit from tourism. Tourism requires balancing three interests: first, the plants, ocean life, animals, biome and biosphere that rely on environmental balance and consistency to thrive and to evolve; second, the local population so that it can be economically supported; third: the tourists who stimulate the economy and deserve to have a marvelous, rich and fulfilling time on their journeys. The concept of responsible tourism supports maintaining strict standards and guidelines that retain the balance of nature on the land and in the sea while still allowing the local population to flourish and advance economically and socially and the tourists to be introduced to and become enriched by unique environments. Ecotourists leave only a positive footprint. In Galapagos, hotel-based tourism has become the model and method of choice for eco-travelers to enjoy nature and all the wonders and marvels of the archipelago.
Galapagos Eco Friendly: the Quintessential Ecotourism Destination
Galapagos Eco Friendly promotes and advocates ethical ecotourism, meaning we encourage visitation to our fragile and undisturbed natural areas in a manner that allows minimal environmental impact. We want to contribute to the education and experience of our guests, introduce them to our land and culture and enhance their overall visit to Galapagos. We want out guests to feel that their lives have been enriched and to have a renewed commitment to the environment. Galapagos Eco Friendly is a destination that in all manners supports sustainability and preservation of our environment and on our entire planet.
Our philosophical foundation unites conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. We minimize environmental impact, build ecological and cultural awareness and respect, provide positive experiences for our visitors and raise sensitivity to the political, environmental, and social climate of the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador.
We are a unique operation in that we are family-owned and operated. The hotel is located within the secure and secluded grounds that include our own home. While ecotravel is for many a new and trending idea, for us it is not. As Galapaguaños, we have been committed to sustainable travel and environmental awareness all of our lives. Galapagos Eco Friendly is a logical extension of our personal and deeply ingrained concern for the environment; we hope to pass this devotion on to Galapagos visitors and future generations. We share all of our experience, amenities, knowledge and passion for Galapagos with our guests.
Adherence to International Ecotourism Standards
The standard for worldwide ecotourism has been set by The International Ecotourism Society which defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in, and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:
- Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Produce direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
- Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
- Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
- Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
We adhere to the Society’s principles by:
- Using our knowledge of Galapagos to build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Providing a positive and supportive experience from the moment that a potential guest first contacts the hotel until the moment that we drop them at the airport.
- Creating an environment of comfortable rooms and common areas that reflect the designs and heritage of our local culture.
- Supporting and furthering a model of hotel-based tourism that provides financial benefits locally.
- Arranging day trips on land and sea for our guests that provide memorable interpretive experiences and help raise sensitivity to our specific and unique environmental situation.
- Building our hotel with local materials and designing the hotel to have minimal environmental impact.
- Offering a natural setting that has been carefully preserved and is populated by local endemic and indigenous flora.
- Using locally harvested and sustainable and/or recyclable materials for our infrastructure and buildings.
- Purchasing food from local purveyors or growing our own.
- Obtaining our goods and services from local personnel and entities.
- Using only environmentally sustainable energy, water and waste systems.
- Presenting our guests with opportunities for interaction with local owners, managers, staff and our own Galapaguaño family.
We are certified as an ecotourism destination by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism and hold Platinum Level Green Credentials on TripAdvisor because of our environmental commitments.
The Hotel-Based Tourism Model
Recently, the Galapagos National Park and Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism have actively changed the standard tourism model in Galapagos from cruise-based to hotel-based. For many years, no new cruise boat permits have been issued, thereby limiting the number of boats and the number of guests given access to our sensitive protected visitor sites. Instead, so that growth can continue while the environment remains protected, new hotel permits have been issued. Now, tourists can come to Galapagos and see the archipelago from a whole new land-based perspective.
In this newer model, Galapagos guests stay at the hotels on the islands and travel each day to destinations of their choice, working with hotel owners and travel agencies who plan these day trips based on the stated desires of the guests themselves.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this new model is its impact on the local Galapagos economy. While nearly all of the cruise ships are owned by outsiders from other countries or the mainland of Ecuador, nearly all of the hotels are owned by Galapagueños. This allows visitors who stay in boutique hotels such as Galapagos Eco Friendly to have a profound positive impact on the local economy, fulfilling one of the linchpins of responsible tourism as advocated by The International Ecotourism Society.
Benefits of Hotel-Based Tourism
There are many benefits to this new model of tourism:
- Hotel-based tourism supports and stimulated local businesses and services allowing Galapagueños an overall improved quality of life.
- Tourists who stay at hotels experience and help the many small businesses that provide day-trip opportunities, lodging and restaurants. The local population of Galapagos is economically stimulated by tourists who stay at locally-owned hotels rather than on board a cruise ship.
- Tourists benefit from acting within local communities, walking through the neighborhoods and immersing themselves in Galapagos culture.
- Tourists can experience our rich nightlife and music; on cruise ships guests never get to experience this side of Galapagos.
- Smaller, less environmentally impacting boats take tourists on day trips to visitor sites or for snorkeling and scuba diving.
- Guests rejuvenate after a day of exploration in a beautiful hotel room or lounging on hammocks and in our gardens filled with endemic and indigenous flora.
- Guests are unbound by regimented ship-based schedules and itineraries which require that passengers be on and off each visitor site within a set time frame. With a hotel-based tour, visitors set the pace, select their activities, and create a customized schedule based on their personal interests.
- There is no group to keep up with. On a boat with 16-100 passengers, there is one pace. If you like to run ahead, you can’t because you have to stay with the group. If you like a relaxing amble or stopping for photo ops, on a land-based tour you can do so without imposing on the time of others.
- In general you will be able to take more time in any given location than if you had a daily boat schedule.
- U.S. summer school break, the best time for family vacation, is “winter” in Galapagos when the weather is just beautiful but the waters are rough and cold. Hotel-based excursions avoid problems that come with rougher seas.
- Most important, your trip is tailored to your interests and your areas of emphasis and not those mandated by others.
- There are considerable environmental benefits of the land-based model as well including less pollution, better recycling opportunities, the use of wind-driving and solar power, purified water, less interference with marine life and more.
Galapagos Eco Friendly Green Practices
- We track all energy use and regularly measure and record our energy use.
- We encourage all guests to participate in our towel reuse program
- We encourage all guests to participate in our linen reuse program
- Our housekeeping staff is completely trained and regularly informed about all green practices
- We recycle all waste in accordance with the strict standards of the Galapagos National Park Service and Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism; this includes all types of waste (paper, glass, plastic and cardboard); our recycling bins are located in common areas
- We provide persistent staff training on green practices on at least a semi-annual basis and every time there are new regulations or additions to the hotel
- Instructional pamphlets on our green practices and expectations are available in every guest room
- We advocate our green practices and highlight them in all of our publications making ecotourism and conservation of the environment a priority
- We use energy efficient lightbulbs include compact fluorescent (CFL), LED, and T5/T8 fluorescent bulbs both inside and outside
- We use energy efficient guest room appliances
- All air conditioning are inversion types with temperature set to save energy; guests turn off room air conditioners any time they leave and indoor temperature is set at a minimum of 22 C
- We actively follow our preventative maintenance plan, which includes making regular checks to ensure energy and water equipment is working efficiently
- Energy-saving lighting controls are installed in public areas with sensors that automatically turn off lights when they’re not needed
- We use 60% wind power from turbines on San Cristobal Island; more turbines are being installed and this percentage will increase once the project is completed
- We use solar panels for some of our energy needs, particularly in the garden and outside areas of the hotel
- All guest bathrooms have water-efficient faucets and all of our guest room faucets use 6 liters per minute or less
- Guest bathrooms are equipped with water efficient shower heads and all of theshowerheads use 6 liters per minute or less
- Only water-efficient toilets are installed throughout the property and all of our guest room toilets use 4.5 liters per flush or less
- We use alternative water sources for watering gardens including captured rainwater and condensation
- Only biodegradable and natural toiletries are used throughout the hotel; this includes packaging
- Our products including produce, coffee, and building materials are locally produced
- Our cleaning staff uses only “Green” certified cleaning products
- We are phasing out all individual soap and shampoo dispensers and replacing them with refillable toiletries dispensers
- Even our food is locally purveyed
Site Gardens and Grounds
- Only endemic and indigenous plants are used in our gardens
- Plants are those that require very little water for growth
- Our paving is designed allow water to be absorbed into the ground and recycled rather than flooding
- Our gardens are natural and we use no chemicals or preservatives; landscaping is maintained without use of herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals
- Much of the hotel was built using recycled materials for insulation
- Building materials are largely locally grown and produced
- We have solar panels for some of our energy needs and recycle rainwater for irrigation
Education & Innovation
- We share our knowledge of the Galapagos Islands with all of our guests and teach them about our environment and what is necessary for preservation, habitat maintenance and conservation
- We provide guests with free bicycle rental
- We have an on-site resources library
- We participate in initiatives related to local conservation or biodiversity
- We comply with zoning requirements and laws related to protected areas and heritage
- We give all of our guests an opportunity to provide us with feedback on green practices
Resources on Ecotourism in Galapagos and Beyond
If you are interested in reading more about the positive impact of land-based ecotourism on Galapagos and elsewhere, refer to the following studies and articles:
- Modelling Tourism in the Galapagos Islands: An Agent-Based Model Approach, from the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 17 (1) 14
- Charles Darwin Foundation Report, Tourism, the Economy, Population Growth, and Conservation in Galapagos
- The International Ecotourism Society
- Ecotourism and Ethical Travel, an Essential Combination
- An Interview with Galapagos Eco Friendly Owner Harry Jimenez on EcoLodges.com
- Defning the Essence of Ethical and Responsible Travel Destinations
- Washington Post Article Out of the Blue, The Virtues of Land-Based Tourism in Galapagos