The closure of Machu Picchu will “affect tourism for the next few months,” the tour operator says

Machu Picchu, Peru’s most famous tourist attraction, has had its share of struggles over the past few months.

After stranded visitors were airlifted out by helicopter last month and overcrowding caused ticket sales to stop last summer, the Incan site is now closed “indefinitely” due to continued violent protests against the country’s new president, it was announced this week.

Tour operators such as Manuel Sánchez-Palacios, who works for Peru for less, expect the shutdown to last about two weeks, but the effects of political instability to linger much longer.

“Unfortunately, this will affect tourism for the next few months and all the people involved,” he says The national. “This includes everyone from the local artisan who depends on selling handmade goods to tourists, to the tour guides and then the bigger agencies like us. Anyone working in Peru will feel the effects of this, especially after the temporary closure of Machu Picchu. “

Protesters have been demanding the resignation of Peru’s president, Dina Bolwarte, since she was sworn in last month after serving as vice president. Since then, 46 people have died and the government has imposed a state of emergency in certain areas of the country.

They want her predecessor, ousted leftist Pedro Castillo, to be released from prison, where he faces sedition and conspiracy charges.

“As a country, we are suffering socially and politically, and to see that Peru’s image is also damaged is painful,” says Sánchez-Palacios. “I know this is a dream destination for many travelers and as a Peruvian I only want to share the beauty of my country’s experience.”

Sanchez-Palacios advises tourists planning to travel to Peru or visit Machu Picchu to save their tickets and travel dates.

“If you’ve booked with an agency, ask for their postponement policy, and if the worst happens, you can always postpone or roll over your travel credit,” he advises. “If you didn’t book with an agency, follow the recommendations of whoever issued your tickets.”

The company he works for, which offers bespoke tours and affordable travel packages, is currently experiencing a spate of cancellations and postponements, but they are offering customers solutions such as lower fees, extended or transferable travel credit and alternative routes with others brands from the group.

Peru has seen worse, he says, and Machu Picchu remains an “extremely important” site. The citadel was built in the 15th century as an Inca religious sanctuary at an altitude of 2,490 meters. In 2018, it attracted 1.5 million visitors. Last summer, capacity was 4,044 visitors per day, rising steadily since the UNESCO World Heritage attraction reopened in October 2020. The UN described it as “probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire in its heyday”.

“Tourism has always rebounded in Peru, regardless of the circumstances; we’ve been through a lot worse, including the pandemic, so I’d still stick to the current travel dates unless they’re in the next two weeks,” Sanchez-Palacios says.

He recalls a situation in 2010 when Machu Picchu was closed for two months due to a severe mudslide that almost destroyed Aguas Calientes. “We spent months suffering the consequences,” he says.

The latest closure was mainly due to a rail fault that left hundreds of tourists and civilians stranded for hours as protests raged.

“Fortunately, the damage to the tracks is not as significant as it was in 2010, and hopefully trains will resume soon after Machu Picchu reopens,” he says.

After all, he is convinced that the unrest will soon subside. “And once it happens, I hope passengers will visit without hesitation,” he adds.

“I would ask all travelers considering traveling here to keep Peru in their hearts.”

Updated: January 25, 2023, 3:59 am

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