IGTOA Launches New Conservation Fundraising Program Aboard Top Galapagos Cruise Vessels

This month, the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) will launch an exciting new traveler philanthropy initiative onboard some of the finest live-aboard cruise vessels operating in the Galapagos Islands. The vessels are the inaugural members of IGTOA’s new Galapagos Conservation Partner Program, an invitation-only category of IGTOA membership exclusively for cruise operators who wish to support IGTOA’s mission to protect and preserve the Galapagos Islands. 

This new initiative will give passengers aboard participating vessels the opportunity to donate to IGTOA’s Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund (GTCF), which provides critical funding to conservation projects in the islands. The inaugural participating cruise operators are Ecoventura (Letty, Eric, Origin and Galapagos Sky), Haugan Cruises (Ocean Spray, Petrel, and Cormorant), Andean Travel Company (San Jose, Treasure of Galapagos, Archipel 1 and Archipel 2) and Latin Trails (Galapagos Sea Star Journey and Galapagos Seaman Journey). Approximately 10,000 passengers on 14 vessels will have the opportunity to make a donation in the first year of the program.  

As part of the program, which is supported by World Wildlife Fund Ecuador, IGTOA will provide each vessel with a suite of educational materials to display onboard. The materials, which were created with the help of Dr. Sam Ham, the renowned communication psychologist who developed Lindblad-National Geographic’s highly successful onboard fundraising program, consist of posters, signs, information booklets and donation brochures. IGTOA will also provide training for guides and crewmembers on how to implement the program and discuss it with guests.

The goal of this new initiative is to significantly increase the amount of funding IGTOA has available to support conservation projects, to educate visitors about the challenges and threats facing the Galapagos and to give them the opportunity to make a meaningful and lasting contribution to the conservation and protection of the islands.

From 2011 to 2016, IGTOA awarded nearly $350,000 in GTCF grants to various conservation organizations working in Galapagos. Recent GTCF grant recipients include the Charles Darwin Foundation, the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency, WildAid, Ecology Project International, Sea Shepherd Ecuador and Darwin Animal Doctors. 

“IGTOA’s member companies and the participating cruise operators cover the cost of administering the program, which means that 100 percent of onboard traveler donations will go directly to support conservation, rather than toward overhead or administration,” says Jim Lutz, President of IGTOA.  

The program is administered locally in partnership with Ecology Project International, a Missoula, MT, based non-profit, with a fully staffed office in Puerto Ayora. Each participating vessel pays an annual membership fee, which helps to offset the cost of administering the program. Participating vessels will be profiled on IGTOA’s website.

“Our plan is to expand the program to many other vessels in the future, all in an effort to raise funds for Galapagos conservation and raise traveler awareness of the threats facing the islands,” said Lutz.    

IGTOA’s board of directors voted unanimously to approve the new membership category last August. All donations to the GTCF are tax deductible as allowed by U.S. law. 

IGTOA wishes to sincerely thank the people and organizations who played a role in bringing this exciting new initiative to fruition, including Dr. Sam Ham, Barbara Ham, Evan Winslow Smith, Ecology Project International, and WWF Ecuador. Most of all, we wish to extend our deepest appreciation to Haugan Cruises, Ecoventura, Andean Travel Company and Latin Trails for their generous and enthusiastic support of this exciting new venture and to all of IGTOA’s member companies for their ongoing support for conservation in the Galapagos Islands. 

Image 1: Courtesy of Andean Travel Company
Images 2 & 3: Courtesy of Latin Trails
Image 4: Courtesy of Ecology Project International



Matt Kareus

Matt is the Executive Director of IGTOA.

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