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May 19, 2024

Machu Picchu Access Restored After Controversial New Ticketing System Sparks Protests

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Feb 1, 2024

Background: Plans for New Private Ticketing System Trigger Backlash

Machu Picchu, the iconic 15th century Incan citadel high in the Andes mountains of Peru, has long been one of South America’s top tourist destinations, drawing over 1.5 million visitors per year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in recent years, overtourism and lack of regulation around access to the site has raised preservation concerns.

In an attempt to address this, the Peruvian government recently moved forward with controversial plans to privatize ticketing and implement a timed entry system. A contract was signed with a private firm to take over all ticket sales for Machu Picchu starting February 1st, 2024. The new system would require all visitors to schedule reservations in advance, capping daily entries to under 5,000 people.

The plan immediately sparked outrage among local residents, indigenous communities, and tourism operators in the Cusco region, who rely on revenue from Machu Picchu visitors. Critics argued the new policy was pushed through too quickly without proper consultation, and that it unfairly empowers outside private interests over local communities.

Escalating Protests Block Train Access, Strand Tourists

Unrest came to a head in late January 2024, as demonstrators began blocking the train tracks leading to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu that serves as the main entry point for tourists. On January 21st, rail operator PeruRail suspended services due to protesters obstructing the tracks. With the only road access also blocked, the iconic site was completely cut off.

Over the coming week, hundreds of tourists found themselves stranded, while the protests grew in size and intensity. Local police and demonstrators clashed on multiple occasions, with authorities accused of using excessive force. Images emerged of tear gas being fired at activists.

By January 30th, with train tracks still obstructed by protestors, over 2,500 visitors were stuck in Aguas Calientes unable to access Machu Picchu, while another 1,500 were stranded in Cusco. The nationwide strike and blockades were estimated to be costing the tourism industry over $1.2 million per day.

Government Backtracks as Economic Impact Mounts

Facing mounting pressure as losses piled up, the government finally announced on January 31st that it would rescind the controversial ticket contract, restoring the previous sales system. Tourism Minister Luis Fernando Helguero declared “the access permit will be repealed and ticket sales will be offered under the conditions that existed beforehand.”

Date Key Developments
January 21 Trains suspend services as protesters block tracks to Machu Picchu
January 30 Over 2,500 tourists stranded in Aguas Calientes; 1,500 more stuck in Cusco
January 31 Government announces cancellation of new ticketing contract

With the concession, train operations gradually resumed over the following day. Stranded visitors were slowly evacuated, while new arrivals regained access to the Incan ruins.

By February 1st, Miguel Zamora, the director of the Machu Picchu archaeological park, confirmed that access was fully reestablished. “The first visitors were able to enter without any problem,” he told reporters.

What Comes Next? Debate Continues Around Managing Tourism

While trains are once again running and tourists are returning, the protests have shone a spotlight on deeper debates about balancing preservation, revenue interests and community rights when managing Peru’s top destination.

Some activists declare victory, but emphasize their underlying frustrations remain unaddressed. “We want dialogue, proposals from the government,” said protest leader Roger Berríos to media after the government reversed course. “We don’t want them to say ‘we’re right’ when we protest.”

Many expect continued discussions around implementing timed entries or caps on visitors without privatization. However, a long-term solution satisfying all parties could prove complex to develop.

Going forward, tourism minister Helguero has promised wide ranging talks over regulation that engage relevant stakeholders. “We need to have a space for dialogue with authorities, guilds and unions,” he stated.

With passions running high on all sides, it may not be the last time Machu Picchu sees upheaval as Peru grapples with protecting its crown jewel.

References

Background information, details on new ticketing plans and initial local backlash:

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/30/travel/machu-picchu-protests-peru.html
  • https://skift.com/2024/01/30/machu-picchu-access-blocked-as-locals-protest-new-ticketing-policy/

Escalation of protests blocking access to Machu Picchu:

  • https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2024/jan/29/machu-picchu-peru-protest-tourists-stranded
  • https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/peru-protests-block-access-machu-picchu-stranding-tourists-2024-01-29/
  • https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-28/machu-picchu-railway-worker-protest-strands-hundreds-of-tourists

Government cancellation of ticketing contract under economic pressure:

  • https://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wireStory/peru-protesters-machu-picchu-rescinds-ticket-sales-contract-106847245
  • https://www.barrons.com/news/protests-called-off-at-peru-s-machu-picchu-minister-23d278d6

Access restored, but debates continue:

  • https://skift.com/2024/01/31/machu-picchu-access-restored-the-strike-has-been-lifted/amp/
  • https://greenleft.org.au/content/peru-protesters-say-machu-picchu-not-sale
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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