Nonprofit Organization Helps to Preserve and Protect the Galapagos Islands
Berkeley, CA – Jim Lutz, a veteran in the international travel community and director of Vaya Adventures, a specialist in bespoke travel to Latin America, was recently appointed President of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA), announced Matt Kareus, Executive Director.
“I’m thrilled to be working with Jim in his new capacity as president of IGTOA. He has been an extremely active and productive member of IGTOA’s board for several years. His deep understanding of tourism in the Galapagos and the challenges the islands face, coupled with deep commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism, make him ideally suited for this position,” Kareus said.
Lutz replaces Kurt Kutay, founding President and CEO of Wildland Adventures and the director of the non-profit Travelers Conservation Trust.
“IGTOA is an organization that has done significant and meaningful work, and which has enormous potential,” said Lutz. “In moving toward a more clearly defined and communicated conservation focus, we hope to increase the amount of money we raise annually for conservation projects in the Galapagos.”
Lutz points out that currently many Galapagos travelers aren’t asked to contribute to conservation by their tour operator or guide. “We want to change that by creating ways for many more travelers to give,” explained Lutz. “Our new Galapagos Travelers Conservation Fund will be a vehicle for raising money from a broader number of visitors. Travelers will be able to make tax deductible contributions to the GTCF, which we will then direct towards effective conservation efforts.”
Some of the IGTOA-supported organizations doing work in the Galapagos include Ecology Project International (provides conservation education to local high school kids), Wildaid Galapagos (works to prevent the introduction of invasive species into the Galapagos by improving the islands’ biosecurity systems), and the Charles Darwin Foundation (which funds research that directly contributes to conservation measures taken by the Galapagos National Park).
As an expert on the region, Lutz went to the Galapagos last year as IGTOA’s representative for a five-day guide training seminar that IGTOA conducted at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.
“One of the initiatives I will work on as new president is the expansion of guide training in the Galapagos that has a conservation focus,” said Lutz. “With proper training, National Park guides will learn ways to inspire visitors and transform them into advocates of Galapagos conservation. IGTOA can play a critical role in raising the level of conservation-themed guiding in the Galapagos.”
“We also hope to expand our organization’s membership base beyond our 40 current tour operator members and help them actively and passionately reach out to their guests with the goal of raising more money for the Galapagos Travelers Conservation Fund,” he adds.
The archipelago’s endemic wildlife and natural beauty have made travel to the Galapagos Islands increasingly popular in recent years. Ironically, booming tourism has added to the challenges and problems faced by those looking to restore and protect the island’s native species and ecological balance.
Today, the islands face serious environmental threats, including invasive species, which often outcompete or prey upon native and endemic species, illegal poaching and fishing, tourism expansion, construction and general population growth.
To Lutz, it’s a challenge he looks forward to. “I’m honored and excited to work with the other dedicated people on IGTOA’s Board toward realizing the organization’s full potential.”