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Ecotourism and economic growth in the Galapagos: an island economy-wide analysis*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2009

Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis; and member of the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, 1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA, 95616, USA. Tel: 530 752-0213. Email:
Managing Partner, Hardner and Gullison Associates, LLC
Ph.D. candidate, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis.


This study revisits and updates a 1999 economy-wide analysis predicting that increases in tourism would result in rapid economic as well as demographic growth on the Galapagos Islands. The following six years witnessed sharp growth in tourism; a restructuring of tourism around larger cruise ships and new, larger hotels; and rapid population growth. Our findings indicate that total income (that is, the gross domestic product) of the Galapagos increased by an estimated 78 per cent between 1999 and 2005, making the Galapagos economy among the fastest growing in the world. Tourism continued to be far and away the major driver of economic growth. Nevertheless, population growth via new migration to the islands nearly erased the effect of economic growth on per-capita household income. These findings raise questions about the compatibility of ecotourism and conservation in this unique ecological setting.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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