The Peruvian Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Martin Pérez, has announced that popular tourist destination Machu Picchu will reopen to visitors starting April 1st, marking a return to normalcy for the 15th century Inca fortress that is the focal point Peru’s travel industry.
The UNESCO World Heritage site has been closed for nearly two months following torrential rainfall that caused severe flooding back in January. Those floods caused the famous railway to Machu Picchu to washout, stranding thousands of tourists at the site for several days. Since that time, crews have been working hard to restore access, removing major landslides from the tracks, and rebuilding sections that were completely destroyed.
With more than 800,000 visitors per year, Machu Picchu is easily Peru’s top tourist destination. It is estimated that nearly $400 million has been lost due to the closure of the site, and with more than 15,000 Peruvians earning their living, either directly or indirectly, from Machu Picchu, the impact on Peru’s economy has been nothing short of catastrophic. The news of the re-opening offers a ray of hope to those workers.
The over-emphasis of Machu Picchu by the tourism industry in Peru has become a cause for concern amongst officials there. Over the past two months, new plans have been put forth to promote some of the other archeological sites in the area, including Sacsayhuamán and Tambomachay, amongst others. Tourism experts hope that by encouraging travelers to visit these other locations, it will take some of the focus off of Machu Picchu, and diversify the industry to an extent.
Whether or not travelers can be convinced to visit these other sites remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, both the visitors and the locals alike will be happy to see Machu Picchu open once again.