Cusco’s regional office of Foreign Trade and Tourism is considering temporarily suspending high risk adventure sports after two fatal zip line accidents at the same adventure park circuit claimed the lives of two tourists and one adventure guide.
Rosendo Baca, regional director of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, said Cusco Perú Zip Line was ordered to close on Feb. 12 by the Municipality of Maras, a month after a Spanish tourist fell to her death and her body was allegedly then dumped into the Vilcanota River to cover up the accident.
Nevertheless, the company kept operating. Then last week another tourist from Lima, along with the company’s guide who was riding with her in tandem, fell to their deaths when their steel cable snapped.
Daily La República quoted an anonymous police source saying the cable was not only deteriorated, but appeared to have been tampered with. “You can see that part of the cable was cut, but it was not recent,” the police source said, adding that it could be a case of foul play, or simply criminal negligence for using defective, second-hand cables.
The owners of Cusco Perú Zip Line, Mario Meza Auccapuma and Raúl Romaní Gómez, were arrested and jailed on homicide charges.
Baca said the safety issue raised by the fatalities are not isolated to the one rogue company. He said Cusco has “liberalized” the licensing of adventure tourism to the point where there are people operating who have no formal background or certification in tourism.
“As long as we do not have the legal regulatory framework to authorize it, we can not allow these practices to continue,” he told Radioprogramas radio. “I hope they accept this proposal and we can suspend adventure tourism, at least until we have all the regulatory tools to authorize them.”
The Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Rogers Valencia, said that his office will comply with the possible suspension of adventure sports activities in the Cusco region, if that is what the Regional Office of Foreign Trade and Tourism (Dircetur) of Cusco decides.
“The ministry has to abide by the decisions made at the management level,” said Valencia. “If they say that it is suspended, it is suspended.”
Baca and Valencia met on Friday to discuss establishing a security protocol and implementing improved supervision of adventure tourism services. The ministry is expected to announce this week what new measures it plans to adopt to fill the legal “gaps” in existing regulations.
Cusco’s formal tourism industry is not opposed to the proposed suspension. Quite the opposite.
The National Chamber of Tourism (Canatur) and the Peruvian Association of Adventure Tourism, Ecotourism and Specialized Tourism (Aptae) have repeatedly called for tighter controls over the industry.
“Once again, we invoke the authorities of Cusco, mayors and Dircetur to fulfill their role of oversight of these services,” Fredy Gamarra, president of Canatur, was quoted saying on his organization’s Web site, Portal del Turismo.
Carlos Diaz, president of Aptae, said the fact that the second accident happened in the same place where the Spanish tourist died last January “shows that there is impunity on the part of companies and/or people who practice this type of activity, by breaking the rules and providing these services without any authority to sanction them.”
Diaz said high risk activities like zip lining, rock climbing, spelunking, white water rafting and kayaking, etc., are all covered under ministerial supreme decrees, but that standards need to be broadened and made tougher.
In addition to having the necessary equipment and infrastructure, he said, adventure tour operators should be required to hire personnel with at least 3 years of experience in the activity or who have special certification.