Galapagos dealing with COVID-19

Laurenne Mansbridge

03 November 2020

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How has Covid-19 affected the Galapagos Islands?

Here at Pioneer Expeditions we have been contacting our partners to find out how destinations have been coping during these unprecedented times. We thought you may be interested in hearing what it is really like on the ground in some of your favourite countries rather than just touching the surface.  Some are faring better than others (either in respect of Covid19 control, or financially), but all struggling in different ways. We want to portray details at a more personal level – in order to gain more in-depth insights.

The team at NeoTropic Expeditions


This blog will include information and words provided by Carolina, our partner at NeoTropic Expeditions.


The Galapagos Islands re-opened to tourists on July 1st 2020.

This was soon after national lockdowns were lowered. However, it was paramount for these islands to open up due to the drastic effect that tourism has on these islands. In the aid of opening the islands back up again and welcoming tourists again, the Galapagos tourism industry has steps in place. Our partner Carolina stated that in order to have a more successful and positive outlook, our partners are making sure to keep working close with suppliers and hotels.


Stated below are the key conditions provided by The Onward Travel to the Galapagos Islands:


Conditions for travel are as follows (as of 27th October 2020):

  • Travel insurance certificate with medical coverage.
  • A certificate of a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of their Galapagos flight.
  • A safe passage (salvoconducto) document, issued at least 24 hours before by the tour operator or hotel.
  • The Galapagos Transit Control Card, filled out online at least 24 hours before the flight.
  • A digital boarding pass.


 When in the Galapagos visitors must (as of 27Th October 2020):

  • Avoid greeting with physical contact
  • Wear face coverings or a mask whenever necessary (transfers and tours)
  • Keep a social distance
  • Thoroughly wash hands


What has life in the Galapagos been like during the pandemic?

In the Galapagos, similar to many destinations, the tourism industry came to a complete halt. Both local and national lockdowns were enforced and there was a huge atmosphere of uncertainty. Curfew was the main system put in place to control the spread of the virus with a curfew of “7pm-5am” and car registration plates being monitored. Moving forward there is a “more flexible schedule” including being able to see family from a distance. Residents were told to stay and work from home and to only travel as leave the house when necessary.


Carolina has given us a personal insight into what her social and work lives have been like over the past few months:


“My life turned 180 degrees. I was forced to stay home. Fortunately, I was able to bring my computer and other belongings from the office so I could continue the work. I live in a group of houses in the valley so these past months we were able to get to know each other a little bit more. Also, I have a garden so I did not feel as if I was in confinement and it was nice to spend more quality time with my husband and daughters. My parents live in the same group of houses so I could visit them – even from a distance meant a lot to me.  – Carolina.


The impact on tourism has been devastating, “income has fallen by 70% In Ecuador” (as of 27/10/20) and the rate of unemployment has dramatically risen. Approximately 166,000 jobs are ‘on hold’ as well as 22,000 that have already been permanently lost. These numbers are detrimental to the Galapagos tourism industry and economy as a whole –  as well as a large number of livelihoods.


Tourism numbers have also drastically fallen. In August 2019, the Galapagos islands welcomed around 250,000 international visitors. This August in comparison, only “378 tourists visited, with only 82 being international” (as of 27/10/20).


During this time, the ‘stay at home’ attitude has allowed people to reconnected with close family members and friends and even gain a more in-depth relationship. Over the past few months’ people have also been able to do finish tasks and start new chapters within life that they may never have done before. It has definitely resulted in people showing a greater appreciation for the smaller things in life – like even just hugging a close friend.


As far as the environment is concerned, the reduced numbers of tourists and vehicles on the roads and air has enabled the environment to begin to breathe. Worldwide there have been some great advantages in environmental improvements which can also relay onto people. Tourism sites on the Galapagos islands have had the past few months to regenerate and regrow. As well as this, moving forward, smaller private groups allow tourism companies to be much more flexible and manageable in coherence with environmental tourism sites.


As well as this, it is of great importance to negotiate and ensure flexible conditions for travellers – with trying to keep existing books as well as they can. The motto for many tourism businesses for the mean time is to re-book, do not cancel.

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