CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Thursday November 3, 2011
Hotel or House ? What do you think ?
The Galapagos National Park Service is in the middle of a legal battle to halt the construction of this building, on the grounds that it is a hotel, and not a private residence. The owner filled out the paperwork for a construction permit with the municipal government of Puerto Ayora last year, indicating he was building a house. Houses do not need to meet strict environmental standards, and do not need ministry of tourism approval. The owner started building his house, and soon, witnesses were reporting to the park that a hotel was under construction. After investigating the site, the Park, which is in charge of certifying that environmental standards have been respected when a hotel is built, requested and obtained a stop work order from the local judge. A few months later, the Park was notified that the owner had ignored the stop work order and had started up construction again. The Park obtained another stop work order which has been in place since. But the owner turned around and charged, before the courts, that the Park did not have the authority to interfere in the construction of his "house". This week, the court responded in support of the park, indicating that the electrical works in the building is not compatible with that of a house and concluded that the owner was in fact building a hotel. This information, along with pictures of the building, led to the court's decision.
This decision is a positive step in the application of the law in Galapagos. Such situations in the past often resulted in the courts deciding in favour of those trying to circumvent environmental laws. Over recent years, much effort has been invested in strengthening the judicial processes in Galapagos, particularly those related to environmental issues. CNH Tours applauds the efforts of the Galapagos National Park Service, along with those of the judges involved in this case. While cruise ship tourism was finally tamed in Galapagos after many years of lax regulation (no additional capacity has been granted to the cruise ship fleet for the last 10 years), land based tourism is still in the "wild west" phase, as exemplified by this case. The government of Ecuador has been working at regulating land based tourism over the past few years - though some progress has been made, more needs to be done. CNH Tours is keen on seeing a well ordered tourism industry in the islands - one that focuses on the respect of the law, the application of safety standards and the removal of tourism pirates - those who operate non-authorized services and undermine legitimate, law abiding businesses. All visitors to Galapagos should double check on the legitimacy of the businesses with whom they are considering entering into a transaction.