Galapagos: Expect a Booking Rush This Autumn

Galapagos dolphins snorkeling on a cruise

Wild dolphins in Galapagos waters – underwater Galapagos is half the wonder.

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The iconic Giant Tortoise of Galapagos

Marine Iguana, galapagos cruise adventure Samba CNH

Marine iguanas on the beach

The adult population in Galapagos is now vaccinated. Entry requirements have been eased significantly. Cut-rate prices are on offer. Expect a booking rush.

The window of opportunity is narrow – as soon as bookings for Galapagos expeditions cruises take off, so will the prices. For the time being, it’s a buyer’s market.”

— Heather Blenkiron, TridAdvisor Destination Expert for Galapagos

PUERTO AYORA, GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR, June 4, 2021 / — On 2 June, the Ecuadorian Minister of Tourism Niels Olsen announced that proof of vaccination will now be accepted for entry into both Ecuador and Galapagos. Along with cut rate cruise prices on offer, and the fact that many Americans are now fully vaccinated, this loosening of requirements is making conditions right for a surge in bookings.

The changes come none too soon for the Galapagos community. The cruise ships have been operating on fumes for months. “My guess is that the cruise fleet is currently operating at 10% – 15% capacity” says Fernando Ortiz, Galapagos resident and long-time naturalist guide. “One of the larger higher end ships I know is catering mostly to Ecuadorian nationals, and it does that by offering very low prices”.

Heather Blenkiron, owner of Ottawa-based Cultural & Natural Heritage Tours (CNH Tours) adds “Galapagos has been our only destination for 22 years. Pre-COVID- we were helping over 500 people a year plan and take their custom Galapagos trip of a lifetime. We’ve never seen the industry on its knees like this. For many small ships, unless business picks up soon, it might the end of the line”.

The burden for entry into Galapagos has been a barrier to foreign travellers. While entry to the Ecuadorian mainland was allowed with proof of vaccination, for Galapagos, travellers needed proof of a negative PCR test no older than 96 hours (4 days) prior to arrival. This extra hoop made it hard for people to time their tests back home, their international flights and their domestic flight into Galapagos within such a narrow window. Starting in June, anyone with proof of full vaccination will have the red-carpet treatment.

“I expect this to make a big difference in the decision to travel to Galapagos” says Blenkiron, who is also the TripAdvisor Destination Expert for Galapagos. “Even before the announcement, the combination of a great vaccination campaign in the USA and very low cruise ship prices in Galapagos was starting to generate a lot of buzz. CNH Tours will be operating in the black this month, for the first time since March 2020”.

Galapagos native Juan Salcedo, who with his family owns and operates the well-reviewed 14 passenger Samba is also positive: “Right now, our market is made up mostly of young people from the USA who are more risk tolerant and have more flexible agendas. This market is usually on a tighter budget, so it helps that we’re selling berths on our ship for almost 50% off the regular price. That allows us to pay most overhead costs – but we’re still losing money. Now that all adults in Galapagos are vaccinated, and that entry requirements are eased, I expect things to pick up quite fast. We’ll probably be increasing our prices in the months ahead I think – that will be good for my family!”

CNH Tours owner Heather Blenkiron and her husband lived and worked in Galapagos for several years. “Business has been regular and growing for us since 1999. Based on our experience, there is a huge amount of pent up demand out there. Combine that with all the rebookings cruise ships have had to arrange for cancelled trips in 2020, and we’re looking at a tight 2022 and beyond. If you’d like to go on an expedition cruise in the Galapagos islands in 2022, the sooner you finalize your plans the better”.

Blenkiron explains that there is a strict cap on the number and size of ships operating in the islands, ensuring that your visitor experience is not affected by a rush for bookings. But the flip side of that benefit is a limited number of spaces available at any given time, making it harder to find the ship and itinerary that will suit specific travel windows.


Heather Blenkiron
CNH Tours
+1 613-740-1104
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June 04, 2021, 21:20 GMT

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