What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
This occurred when the reality and impact of tourism in Galapagos became evident through various studies and reports developed after the UNESCO placed the Galapagos on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites in 2007. This event caused the start of a subsequent process, which proposed a fundamental change in how tourism is managed in Galapagos in order to minimize its impact and implement new sustainable practices to convert this economic activity into a true instrument of environmental conservation and social development. WWF became part of a group of public and private organizations that made substantial efforts to identify and diagnose the problems, and propose strategies for this change. This highly participatory process produced a permanent process of analysis, of which the main result was the proposal for a new tourism model that included detailed components and strategies. This proposal, in turn, became the main groundwork for the 1st Sustainable Tourism Summit: Galapagos 2010, held in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on September 22-24, 2010. The results of this Tourism Summit were highly motivating. For the first time ever public, private, and local stakeholders, although representing different perspectives, were able to acknowledge the main obstacles and challenges, and agree that the current tourism model needs to change in order to guarantee biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. The discussions generated common objectives, goals and actions on four prioritized areas: governance, product reengineering, marketing, and tourism monitoring. Following up on the Summit’s resolutions, WWF strengthened its support with the implementation of several key actions that promoted the change in the current tourism model. Our work in the four inhabited islands in Galapagos allowed us to identify, together with the Floreana Parish leaders and community members, as well as with other key actors like the Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, and the Ministry of Tourism, that Floreana arguably shows the best opportunity for the implementation of the new tourism model. Through discussions held with the representatives of these institutions, and with the local population, we confirmed that although tourism is incipient in this island, it is already starting to show potential sources of negative impact, both on nature and on the local population. The population, aware of the threats generated by tourism in the other islands, confirmed its decision to pursue a change in the current model in order to protect its island and become a model for development, sustainability and conservation.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
WWF has supported conservation efforts in Galapagos since the beginning of the 1960’s. WWF works in Galapagos with a comprehensive vision, playing a relevant role in the areas of tourism, fisheries, education, strengthening the participatory management system, governance, migration, waste management, etc. WWF has also established alliances with several local, national, and international organizations, and works in coordination with local and government authorities, decision makers from several sectors, and members of the local community.
Since then, WWF has worked in different fields. It has supported strengthening the capacity of the Galapagos National Park Service to perform control and patrolling activities in the Marine Reserve as well as the development of activities in research, environmental education, fisheries management, tourism and natural resources.
WWF also supported the approval of the 1998 Galapagos Special Law, which created the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In addition, WWF has worked to control migration to the islands by providing technical assistance for the implementation of technological systems to control and document the entry of permanent and temporary residents to the islands.
In 2007, WWF participated in discussions, provided information, and supported the decisions adopted by the UNESCO. In April of 2007, the Ecuadorian government issued a Presidential Decree declaring that the conservation and environmental management of the Galapagos ecosystem was at risk, as well as declaring the islands as a national priority. The decree proposed an agenda that included the development of a new vision for tourism. WWF is working to ensure that this vision for Galapagos becomes a reality. Its goal is to conserve a marine ecosystem that maintains abundant and diverse native species, together with the people who depend on this ecosystem for their livelihoods. In terrestrial areas, WWF works to prevent biodiversity loss while ensuring the sustainable development of inhabited areas, and that non-inhabited islands remain in pristine conditions.
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