Tourism Management Perceptions in two Ecuadorian Biosphere Reserves: Galapagos and Sumaco

Título traducido de la contribución: Percepciones de la gestión del turismo en dos reservas de biosfera ecuatorianas: Galápagos y Sumaco

Producción científica: Contribución a una revistaArtículorevisión exhaustiva

12 Citas (Scopus)


The tourism is considered as one of the key strategies to promote environmental conservation and socio-economic development oflocal communities in protected areas. UNESCO biosphere reserves are protected areas of extraordinary natural and cultural value, conceived as places for reconciliation between conservation and development. The primary objective of this research was to evaluate the key elements of the current management of tourism and its contribution to biodiversity conservation and development in two Ecuadorian biosphere reserves: Galapagos Islands and Sumaco (Amazon Basin). Moreover, the sustainability of tourism was evaluated. Data collection for the case studies was performed by the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Surveys were applied to residents in both reserves in order to find out about their socio-demographic characteristics, their main economic activities for supporting themselves and their attitude towards tourism, their level of knowledge about biosphere reserves, and their perception about advantages or disadvantages of living in a biosphere reserve. For qualitative analysis, in-depth semi-structured interviews with the main stakeholders in both biosphere reserves were applied. Experts in the management of protected areas, as well as representatives of different sectors directly and indirectly associated with tourism were interviewed. Although tourism is a concept that could be developed in accordance with the environment in these natural areas, in the case of Galapagos it is one of the main threats for the conservation of biodiversity in the archipelago due to the increasing number of tourists, among others. In contrast, in Sumaco tourism could be an important sustainable alternative to mining and oil extraction, which are the current threats to the conservation of the area. There are serious problems in both reserves, mainly linked to the contamination of water resources. Such pollution imposes risks to the health to both, residents and tourists. The invasion of exotic species in Galapagos is one of the most serious threats to the conservation, while deforestation in combination with illegal logging and mining activities is the greatest danger in Sumaco. Migration processes undoubtedly shape the attitudes and values of the current population in both reserves. In Galapagos most residents are immigrants, whereas in Sumaco a significant portion is Kichwa people who belong to the area's native population. In general, the inhabitants in both areas have not yet developed a true environmental awareness. Their awareness is based on usage, in the sense of “use it today and do not worry about it tomorrow”. In both reserves, tourist services offered by local communities have low quality standards and are targeted on a market segment consisting of tourists with a low budget. Thus, the community revenues obtained from tourism are generally only a small percentage of the total tourism market. This situation is much more noticeable in Galapagos where large companies that operate luxury cruises and hotels gain most of their revenues from tourism. Many of them have their headquarters in the main cities of Ecuador and abroad, which means that they pay their taxes in those cities and not in the places where they operate. Inequality in the distribution of the economic benefits of tourism leads to a situation of frustration among the residents. Despite this situation, tourism is still a profitable business and residents try to make the most ofit, no matter the cost impacts. Temporary and illegal tourism activities is often the normal state of the things: unregistered houses that offer rooms for tourists, taxi drivers who offer tours without being in possession of permits, tourist boat owners, tour guides and even large tourist companies that operate without legal licenses. This situation leads to a decrease of the quality of services, an uncontrolled increase of business, a consequent dumping of prices and the overall decline of the destination. There are some serious limitations regarding the technical and logistical capacity of the institutions responsible for controlling and managing the tourist activity; they consist mainly in the lack of staff and funding. Galapagos, given its special status, has increased the number of funding managers and staff members for controlling and management, but in many cases, these people are not fully qualified for their positions. Sumaco has only few tourism experts who can help to develop the tourism. The coordination and planning among all stakeholders involved in tourism is still a work in progress to ensure proper management of the tourist destinations. In any case, local communities are developing important initiatives in both biosphere reserves. Adequate planning and coordination are mandatory to achieve sustainable tourism in Galapagos and Sumaco.

Título traducido de la contribuciónPercepciones de la gestión del turismo en dos reservas de biosfera ecuatorianas: Galápagos y Sumaco
Idioma originalInglés
Páginas (desde-hasta)110-125
Número de páginas16
PublicaciónInvestigaciones Geograficas
EstadoPublicada - ago. 2017

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