1706389842 An indefinite strike in Machu Picchu is threatening tourism in

An indefinite strike in Machu Picchu is threatening tourism in one of the seven wonders of the world

An indefinite strike in Machu Picchu is threatening tourism in

“Machu Picchu is not for sale. “Machu Picchu defends itself” is the popular demand that resonates in Cusco these days. Various tourism associations and groups have launched an indefinite strike since Thursday over opposition to the new virtual platform to sell tickets to the Inca Citadel, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The demonstrators believe that the country's most important tourist attraction is being privatized and accuse Culture Minister Leslie Urteaga of letting the private company Joinnus manage the tickets without first going through a tender process.

The contingent burned tires and blocked rail access to Machu Picchu in the district of the same name. Three civilians and five police officers were injured in the clashes with police forces. The concessionaire Ferrocarril Trasandino has suspended its service on the Ollantaytambo-Machu Picchu-Hidroeléctrica section in the southeastern sector, at least until Saturday, citing “lack of safety conditions”.

Of course, the hardest hit are tourists who want to both visit the historic sanctuary and return to Cusco. On Friday night, around 300 foreigners reported on social networks that they were trapped in the town of Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. They demanded the presence of the mayor and the help of the Chancellery to solve the problem.

“We went sightseeing with my husband. They informed us that the train service for the return trip to Ollantaytambo was canceled. The strike has blocked the railway, preventing us from returning to the country. We need someone to give us a solution. Leave the Colombian embassy, ​​let someone be present here. “We are a large group of Colombians waiting to be mobilized and be able to return to our country,” tourist Cristina Ávila told RPP Radio.

Carlos González, president of the Ollantaytambo Chamber of Commerce, stressed that the conflict is already affecting the tourism sector and that further escalation could damage the entire season. “The United States government has issued a travel advisory, warning of this situation and recommending that travelers exercise great caution when entering Peru. This will have a domino effect that may jeopardize the entire 2024 season and therefore the employment of more than half a million families who make their living from tourism in Cusco and the rest of the country.” According to their calculations, each day of unemployment represents a loss of 3 million soles ($810,000) for the entire value chain: hotels, agencies, guides, restaurants, transport companies, markets and others.

Last October, Culture Minister Leslie Urteaga announced the outsourcing of the sale of tickets to Machu Picchu through the platform Joinnus, a private company that also managed the same service for the Kuelap fortress in the Amazon region. The main question is that this award was not made through a public tender, but through another modality called “Small Amount”. This has called into question the legality of the transaction. Urteaga, however, defended the decision, pointing out that the government was simply trying to carry out “more transparent control,” which was not possible with the previous platform managed by the Culture Ministry’s regional office. This creates an imbalance of 8 million soles ($2.1 million) in the previous cash register system in relation to the number of visitors to the citadel reported by the ministry.

Cusco regional governor Werner Salcedo has spoken out in support of the protests rather than blaming the government. “The sale of tickets has drained the state treasury and the decentralized cultural directorate and led to losses of millions, and in the face of this we are witnessing the silence of the Ministry of Culture (…). “These are years of neglect and carelessness in the management of software and the fact that human resources have fallen into the arms of corruption.” Salcedo has suggested that the Cusco region itself prepare an application to manage the service.

Joinnus has been taking over ticket sales for Machu Picchu since January 20th. However, in the face of the wave of criticism, he has announced in the last few hours that he will request to bring forward the expiry date of his contract (which ends in August 2024) in order to be available for a new selection process. “We categorically reject the statements that indicate that this is a privatization process: Joinnus does not own any services related to Machu Picchu and does not intend to be one. Our service focuses exclusively on outsourcing ticket sales,” they explain.

While Joinnus has taken a step back to calm the waters, the demonstrators are demanding the resignation of Culture Minister Leslie Urteaga, against whom two interpellations from a group of congressmen speak. According to a report from the Peruvian Economic Institute (IPE), the cumulative flow of tourists to Machu Picchu fell by 8% in the third quarter of 2023 and losses were around 460 million soles ($124 million).

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