Pressure mounts to increase Machu Picchu visitor limit ahead of UNESCO expert’s visit

Pressure mounts to increase Machu Picchu visitor limit ahead of UNESCO expert’s visit

Peru’s Culture Minister Susana Baca warned that allowing a major daily increase in the number of  tourists to Machu Picchu could mean not only the deterioration of the Inca Citadel, but also risk the wrath of UNESCO, which could add Peru’s top tourist attraction to an infamous list of endangered sites.

Peru’s Tourism Ministry recently contended in a report that Machu Picchu could handle up to 5,479 visitors per day.

Baca told  tourism trade publication T-News that that conclusion was under review, but added that in the meantime, the maximum number of visitors remains at 2,500 people per day.

“We must take care of our patrimony,” she said. “What would we prefer,  to kill Machu Picchu or to maintain it?”

Baca said an Egyptian specialist from UNESCO is scheduled to arrive to Cusco in October to analyze the situation.

Machu Picchu Visitor Totals 1980-2010Deputy Minister of Tourism, Claudia Cornejo, said Baca, as Culture Minister, is entitled to assess the carrying capacity of Machu Picchu, but added that the final decision rests with the recently installed Management Unit of Machu Picchu Sanctuary, which is comprised of representatives from her ministry and Cusco’s Regional Government.

“I understand that the Culture Ministry will conduct its own research with foreigners. They are within their rights to do so,” she said. “What we’re looking for is that they do it quickly. That is, if you want to bring in people from the outside to analyze things, we fully support it, but do it quickly.”

Victor CarlottoVíctor Carlotto, director of Regional Geology of Peru’s Geological Mining and Metallurgy Institute (Ingemmet) told Radio Nacional that Machu Picchu could easily handle as many as 6,000 daily visitors, provided their concentration at any one time be controlled and spaced out across the day.

“Machu Picchu is one of the few Cultural Patrimony of Humanity sites where people can arrive at seven in the morning and leave at five in the evening with no control and the people come and go as they please. Nowhere else does this happen,” Carlotto said. “Our proposal is to create three or four shifts of, say, three hours, because the circuits take at most two hours. There are short circuits that last an hour and 20 minutes.

“If you created three or four shifts, Machu Picchu could handle four or five or six thousand tourists per day, but at any one time there wouldn’t be more than 1,200 or 1,300 people on the site,” he added. “People would follow predetermined routes with guides in an orderly fashion, as it’s done at sites everywhere else. That’s the way we could do it so everyone can experience Machu Picchu.”

Carlotto and his institute have long contended that the greater danger to Machu Picchu is water filtration  and the resulting threat of landslides.

During the Inca occupation of Machu Picchu in the 15th century the buildings and agricultural terraces were protected from heavy rains by an elaborate system of gutters and drains, most famously documented by the paleohydrolic engineer Kenneth R. Wright.

Today, the lack of roofs on the buildings and the lack of preservation of the drains has allowed the water to saturate Machu Picchu’s top soil and penetrate the bedrock,  Carlotto said.

The roofs should be rebuilt, and the ancient system of drains restored, he concluded.

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Authored by: Rick Vecchio

Rick Vecchio, Fertur’s director of development and marketing, was educated at the New School for Social Research and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He worked for Pacifica Radio WBAI and as a daily reporter for newspapers in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. Then in 1996, he decided it was time to realize a life-long dream of traveling to Peru. He never went back. While serving as Peru country manager for the South American Explorers from 1997-1999, he fell in love with Fertur's founder, Siduith Ferrer, and they married. Over the next six years, he worked as a correspondent for The Associated Press. Meanwhile, Siduith built the business, which he joined in January 2007. Now he designs custom educational and adventure tour packages for corporate and institutional clients, oversees Fertur’s Internet platform and occasionally leads special trips, always with an eye open for a good story to write about.

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