Galapagos Park Entrance Fee to Double

[Bolivar Channel, Western Isabela Island - Galapagos]

(updated 17 March 2024)

In its meeting this past Saturday, the authority in charge of such things voted to increase the Galapagos national park entrance fee from $100 to $200 for foreigners, and from $7 to $30 for Ecuadorians.   

This has been a very long time coming.  The effective cost of entering the park has not changed since the late 1980s (at that time, there were 3 elements to the fee, adding up to $100 - these were combined into a single fee in 1998).   

Back in the 1990's, $100 represented up to 10% of the cost of a budget 8 day cruise in Galapagos.  Today, given that the price of cruise has increased regularly over the intervening period, $100 represents approximately only 2% of such an expense.  Visitors to the islands are leaving significantly more in tips than they leave with the authorities in charge of managing the park.

CNH Tours, through its membership in the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA), has been actively advocating for an increase in the entrance fee.  IGTOA canvassed its members in 2017 and concluded that an entrace fee of $300 would be acceptable. The authorities have decided to raise it to $200 - which we find reasonable.  

We're pleased to see this development. It has been very difficult to have the authority in charge to pass such a change.  Of the 9 votes, 5 voted for the fee increase, 4 against.   Those who voted against were the 4 local municipal representatives.  Many locals fear that an increase in the fee will discourange budget travellers.  These travellers all choose the "land-based" model of tourism in Galapagos, staying in low-end hotels, spending in low-end eateries, and often engaging only in free activities, leaving very little money behind after their visit, yet requiring a disproportionate amount of municipal and other services.  

The "land-based" vs "ship-based" debate has been going on for years.   Recent numbers show that about 260,000 land-based visitors came to Galapagos last year (up from about zero 25 years ago), vs. 70,000 ship-based visitors (no significant difference from 25 years ago).  While the cruise ship fleet capacity has been striclty capped for 25 years, there is no such restriction on the number of visitors than can come to Galapagos on a land-based visitor model. 

Galapagos is unique on the planet and its ecosystems are very vulnerable to the introduction and dispersal of alien invasive species.  These species arrive thanks to the movement of people and goods from the mainland.  Limiting the number of visitors to the islands is a critical 1st step in trying to manage this risk.

While we believe that the increase will not affect visitor numbers, it is at least a sign that the authorities are starting to recognize the problem of overtourism in Galapagos.  UNESCO's intergovernmental World Heritage Committee first raised this concern in 2017.  Until as recently as last year, the minister of tourism was celebrating "record numbers of visitors in Galapagos".   While in Galapagos in February / March, we had the chance to speak with the minister (Niels Olsen) and we were pleased to see that he has made a 180 degree turn in his attitude.  

Thankfully, the ship-based visitor experience has not changed significantly over the years. Access to visitor sites is strictly regulated, and only a set number of visitors are permitted to disembark at any given time.  

What does this mean for CNH Tours guests who have already booked their trip?

If your trip has you arriving in Galapagos on the 1st of August 2024 or beyond, the new fee will apply to you.  There are two scenarios:

  1. If the park fee was included in your invoice, either as a separate line item, or as part of the cruise price, we will need to invoice you for the difference.
  2. If the park fee was not included in your invoice or as part of the cruise price (you are expected to pay on arrival in Galapagos), we will not be invoicing you for the difference, but you will need to come prepared on arrival in Galapagos with the proper amount in cash.  

We copy-paste the press released published yesterday (Google Translated from Spanish) below:

In an extraordinary meeting, this February 24, 2024, with five votes in favor and four against, the Plenary Session of the Governing Council of the Special Regime of Galapagos approved the update of the income rate for conservation of protected areas in the archipelago. The figure had not been modified in the last 26 years.

 The collegiate body is made up of the highest authorities of the institutions: Governing Council of the Special Regime of Galapagos; Municipal GAD of San Cristóbal, Isabela and Santa Cruz; National Planning Secretariat; Ministries of: Agriculture and Livestock; Environment, Water and Ecological Transition and Tourism. A representative of the parish GAD also participates. 

The decision responds to the objectives of promoting a tourism model in accordance with the conservation actions already undertaken, generating citizen benefits and stabilizing the number of tourists who come to the island province. Thus, the cost to enter the protected areas in Galapagos will be USD 30 (thirty) for nationals and USD 200 (two hundred) for foreigners. The application of the new rate will take place after six months. 

According to the “Conservation Report on Properties Inscribed on the World Heritage List” issued by UNESCO, it is a priority to stabilize the growth in tourism volume to maintain the well-being of both the ecosystem and the inhabitants of Galapagos. The objective is to promote tourism focused on sustainability and the ability to boost the local economy, thanks to the natural wonders that the islands offer, unique in the world. 

On the other hand, it seeks to strengthen the management of decentralized autonomous governments, responsible for the provision and efficient administration of water services, environmental sanitation, waste, tourist facilities, urban fauna management, among others, capable of generating more benefits for Galapagos citizens in terms of conservation and economic development. 

To update the rate, length of stay, age, disability condition, tourism model, nationality or legal residence in the country was demonstrated, in accordance with article 29 of the Organic Law of the Special Regime of the province of Galapagos (LOREG). 

The National Government promotes environmental, tourist and economic management focused on motivating development and balance in the Islands, recognized by UNESCO as a Natural Heritage of Humanity (1978) and a Biosphere Reserve (1984).

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