William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


Scientists have pleaded to both Galápagos and Ecuadorian officials to impose a tourism cap on land-based tourism to protect the biodiversity of the Islands. However, these proposals have offered little to no means of addressing the economic concerns or offsetting the impact a tourism cap would have on key revenue-producing industries and locals. Because of this, proposals for land-based tourism caps have gained little traction within Ecuador and the Galápagos.

This Note should serve as a guide for assessing what tourist restrictions are possible and how those restrictions would be implemented. Part I begins with an overview of the environmental problems the Galápagos Islands are experiencing due to tourism and also how these problems are exacerbated by other factors such as climate change. Included in Part I is an explanation of the plausibility of a tourism cap and why the Galápagos or Ecuadorian governments would impose a tourism cap against possible local opposition or GDP loss given the right conditions. Part II addresses why a land-based tourism cap is necessary to preserve the biodiversity on the Islands and why current regulations are insufficient to address the environmental problems identified in Part I. Part III compares the markets for commodities and services on the Galápagos Islands to similarly situated islands with tourism-based economies. These comparisons will prove prices are below market value on the Islands and how this market failure can be used to implement a tourism cap. Part IV identifies how different economic mechanisms, including a tax on businesses, would work in relation to the tourism cap in order to address both the environmental and economic concerns on the Islands. Ultimately, even if the policies in this Note are not adopted, it should serve as an awakening to environmental policymakers that in order to successfully mitigate environmental harm, they must consider more than the wildlife.

This abstract has been taken from the author's introduction.