Travel Agent Discusses the Galapagos Islands With Ecoventura’s Executive President

A computer rendering of Ecoventura's new MV Origin vessel.

Travel Agent recently had an opportunity to chat with Santiago Dunn, executive president of Ecoventura, about his company’s new premium class vessel, as well possible hotel development on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

Ecoventura, which specializes in expedition cruising through the Galapagos Islands, is set to launch their newest Premium Class vessel, MV Origin, in January. The 20-passenger mega-yacht will have 10 deluxe staterooms distributed throughout one floor, and a variety of onboard amenities.

These will include a concierge, locally inspired gourmet cuisine, and recreational equipment such as a Jacuzzi and fitness center. MV Origin will also have indoor and outdoor social and observation areas allowing for easy and comfortable viewing of the islands’ unique scenery and topography, also viewable from each stateroom’s panoramic windows. 

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Dunn told Travel Agent he recommends booking roughly six to 12 months in advance and at least nine months to a year in advance for the holidays. In fact, Dunn noted that holiday bookings are already sold out for 2016. 

MV Origin will alternate between two seven-night itineraries, including twice daily excursions with optional snorkel and kayak tours lead by two onboard certified naturalists, who also join the captain in nightly briefings for guests. Excursions are organized in small groups of no more than 10 passengers per naturalist to ensure a personalized and intimate experience through their tour of the Galapagos National Park

Like Ecoventura’s existing fleet of expedition vessels, MV Origin’s route will bring guests face-to-face with marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, Darwin finches and famed giant land tortoises.

Ecoventura is currently accepting bookings for departures as early as January 2016. Although Ecoventura has been primarily serving Ecaudor for the last 25 years, Dunn told Travel Agent he would like to expand the company to Peru and possibly Colombia. Currently, Ecoeventura currently sells some Peru through its supplier partners but Dunn said he would like to see that business plan expanded.

“We are born and raised in Ecuador and we love our country,” he says, “but we are looking at a few options to expand. We are looking at Peru, we are looking at Colombia, but right now these are just baby steps.”

Hotels in the Galapagos?

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. // Photo by Joe Pike

According to a VICE.com report, residents of the Galapagos Islands are protesting a law passed in early June that gives the Ecuadorian government greater control over land use and wages in the popular tourist destination.

Locals say this new law paves the way for foreign investment and encroachment on the Galapagos National Park, undermining local businesses and potentially devastating unique wildlife.

“You have some hotels that are really regulated and they only hire local people and do day trips with the ships approved by the park ,” says Dunn, “while others will be demanding service that ships are not authorized to provide, so I think that it will be good that there is this control on the Galapagos Islands. It’s a nature destination.”

According to the Vice report, the new law gives the ministry of environment the authority to update the boundaries of the national park, one of the most bio-diverse areas on Earth and the place where in the 1830s Charles Darwin undertook research that helped him develop his theory of evolution. The park's boundaries have been set since 1969, and some residents fear that new lines may be drawn to promote new, foreign-financed tourist infrastructure.

Ecuador's ministry of the environment told VICE, "The law will not put the limits of the National Park and the Marine Reserve at risk, the limits will remain and the ability to expand the areas of protection exists."

When Travel Agent was covering the Travel Mart Latin America conference in Quito, Ecuador back in 2013, we were told by tourism executives that Orient Express was contemplating an expansion to the Galapagos Islands.
 
Visit www.ecoventura.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all the latest Latin America news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent’s Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike

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