Travel is Back in the Galapagos Islands, and it May Serve as Framework to Restart the Cruise Industry

A quick primer and informative video on visiting the bucket-list destination from Metropolitan Touring, the pioneer of cruising in the Galapagos Islands

Quito, Ecuador, February 11, 2021 – Good news for travelers: Not all travel is on hold, including in the cruise industry, which saw a few lines restart operations in August 2020 and continue to serve guests since. Better news for travelers: As the cruise and travel industries work diligently to reopen to the fullest, one bucket-list cruise destination, the Galapagos Islands, has created a framework for safe travel that may serve as an example to follow in other parts of the world.

Located some 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands’ national park, authorities, and travel companies were pioneers in developing a framework for low-impact encounters with the natural world back in the 1960s. While some 70 small vessels once explored the islands and islets that make up the archipelago, currently only around half a dozen ships are sailing consistently. Vessels in the region have always been small, with most carrying fewer than 50 passengers. Indeed, today only five ships are certified to carry 100 passengers, the maximum allowed under strict Galapagos regulations.

Spotting dolphins in the Galapagos Islands during a Coastal Exploration aboard one of Yacht La Pinta's Dinghies

Spotting dolphins in the Galapagos Islands during a coastal exploration aboard one of Yacht La Pinta’s dinghies.

Due to its high level of endemism, unique species, and historical importance, 97% of the land in the archipelago has been protected as a national park — Ecuador’s first — since 1959, while its marine reserve ranks among the world’s largest. Historically, the islands have been highly regulated in order to protect their species and ecosystem from invasive species and human impact. Biosecurity regulations have simply been extended to include COVID-19 with a raft of sensible precautions over the last year, ensuring the safety of travelers and travel industry employees in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Additionally, Galapagos does not receive any international flights, meaning there are effectively three filters in place to reduce the risk of any virus entering: international airports, Quito and Guayaquil airports, and the two airports in Galapagos. The Galapagos population is also the most tested and traced in Ecuador, with vaccination programs aiming to inoculate the majority of the population over the coming months.

Sea Lions play at the beach in Galapagos.

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