With the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu empty, Peru’s thriving tourism industry was left in intensive care because of the coronavirus and its recovery will be slow.
“Machu Picchu is the visible face of tourism in Peru,” but “there has been zero tourism since March 16, complying with the decree” of national confinement in the face of the pandemic, said the head of the archaeological park, José Bastante.
“This creates a major problem for all tourism” in the country, added the official in statements to AFP.
The stone citadel built some 600 years ago, visited by 1.5 million tourists in 2019, “was not fumigated (by Covid-19), but is being guarded by the minimum necessary personnel on its perimeter”.
The town of Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo, the closest, where there are hotels, hostels and restaurants for tourists, is kept in quarantine like the rest of the country, so its residents have had to resort to their savings due to lack of income.
Since the citadel was opened to tourism in 1948, it has only closed its doors twice: for two months in 2010 when a flood destroyed a section of the railway, and now for the Covid-19, since one month ago.
During this quarantine, the PeruRail railway company has suspended passenger service to Machu Picchu, declared in 2007 as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in a worldwide internet survey.
Only two train services loaded with food now arrive in Aguas Calientes.
72 km from Machu Picchu is Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, which has also seen tourism, one of the main sources of income for its inhabitants, plummet.
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In the Peruvian Amazon the situation is no better, as tour operators and hotel and restaurant workers suffer the effects of the cancellation of accommodation packages and river crossings.
The region of Loreto, where the Amazon River begins, is one of the areas of Peru with the greatest number of cases of coronavirus in the country, after Lima and Lambayeque, although it is the least populated.
“The communities have decided to go into their plots and avoid outside contact. It’s a way of defending ourselves with what we have at hand, because we live in a situation of abandonment,” Alfonso López, leader of the Kukuma Amazon community, told El Comercio newspaper.
“With the fishing and harvesting of bananas or yucca many will resist the quarantine, but it will not be enough,” he added.