Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Department

Environmental Science

Advisor(s)

Edward Van Buren

Abstract

Over the past decade, ecological tourism in the Galapagos has gained popularity. The local population of people living in the Galapagos is around 30,000; this includes, permanent residents, temporary residents, and immigrants. Tourist visitation within the 5 human inhabited islands is 200,000 people annually. The romantic idea of a pristine natural environment entices humans from across the globe to visit this World Heritage site. However, the growing attraction of this natural landmark has led to resource exploitation and the commodification of natural landscapes. In recent years, the Galapagos has developed its infrastructure in order to sustain the influx of tourists in the capital city of San Cristobal. This was both necessary and detrimental because it was a logical investment for the tourism industry, but has had negative effects on the conservation of resources on the island. This thesis examines the benefits of tourism-directed ecosystem services in comparison to the well-being of the local people. The tourism industry contributed 53 percent to the GDP in 2007 and this number continues to grow. It is understandable that the government would support such a cause. Capitalism is a driving factor for the introduction of ecotourism in economically vulnerable communities. In this thesis, I examine the history of exploitation of resources in the Galapagos, the true economic benefits and costs of ecotourism, and the political resistance enacted by local people who can no longer afford the resultant higher cost of living. In conclusion, I suggest government policy modifications, such as visitor limits and conservation laws, to combat the negative effects of ecotourism.