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International Galapagos Tour Operators Association and the Galapagos Travelers Conservation Fund

What’s the idea?
The Galapagos Islands were the very first place designated a UNESCO World Heritage site (in 1978) due to their exceptionally unique wildlife and unspoiled ecosystems, and as the setting that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Unfortunately, the pristine ecosystems and unique wildlife that have made the area a premiere nature tourism destination are at risk. The fragile area faces such threats as invasive species, population growth, unsustainable fishing, inadequate government accountability and oversight, poor education and lack of opportunity for residents, and the impacts of tourism.

What does IGTOA do?
igtoaThe International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, or IGTOA, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the complete and lasting protection of the Galapagos. The organization works to promote genuinely sustainable tourism practices, in an effort to preserve the Galapagos Islands for future generations of travelers, and raises money through its Galapagos Travelers Conservation Fund (GTCF). Funds raised from travelers and member companies are redirected to critical conservation initiatives, such as increasing biosecurity to keep out invasive species, improving the enforcement of fishing regulations and responding to marine crimes, and sponsoring programs to improve education and professional development opportunities for local residents.

How does Vaya help?
Our founder, Jim Lutz, has been a member of IGTOA’s Board of Directors since 2010, and in 2014 was elected President. As such, he is actively involved in setting the priorities of the organization, finding and screening the specific projects that IGTOA funds, and in expanding the organization’s outreach. He has also been active in efforts to expand guide training in the Galapagos, with a focus on thematic interpretation with conservation as a theme. As an organization, Vaya Adventures strives to promote sustainable tourism in the Galapagos, one of our favorite destinations. We feel a strong obligation to support the types of activities that promote the long term conservation of the Islands in their natural habitat.