Interview: Claudia Cornejo

Are there plans to diversify tourism away from Lima and Cusco? Which areas hold the most potential?

CLAUDIA CORNEJO: Tourism has become an increasingly powerful tool for the growth of the country and is currently the third-largest contributor to GDP. The industry also represents more than a million jobs across the country, whether direct or indirect. Given the economic and transformative power that the sector represents, it is important to work to spread the benefits of tourism’s growth throughout the country.

The ministry’s targets in this regard remain the same as they have been since 2001, mainly the decentralisation of tourism away from Lima and Cusco, the expansion of alternative destinations and the strengthening of local and regional capacities. These can all be achieved through increased integration and cooperation between the state and the private sector, with the state acting as the facilitator and the private sector charged with investing in and commercialising the sector. Peru is not saturated with tourists, in Cusco, Lima or anywhere else, which means the entire country has huge growth potential. While the typical attitude of investors is to start in Lima and Cusco and then move to other regions, investors who get into these alternative markets early on and establish themselves will not regret it.

In the south, we see great opportunities in places like Arequipa and the nearby Colca Canyon, while Puno also represents an exciting market. In the north, there is a lot of potential along the coast, as well as along what we call the Moche route, which is a collection of Pre-Incan ruins. Finally, despite the fact that Peru is predominantly known as being an Andean nation, 60% of our territory is covered by the Amazon rainforest. Therefore it is only natural that Peru capitalises on the enormous touristic potential presented by this region.

To what extent do you feel that growth in the industry is limited by infrastructure deficiencies?

CORNEJO: Growth in the number of international visitors, as well as increased movement of domestic tourists, requires that we facilitate private investment in infrastructure so that we can accommodate this expansion throughout the country. Improved connectivity is a fundamental goal, and while Peru is much better connected today than it was even just a few years ago, there are still many challenges to be overcome, especially in the interior. These will require substantial investment in both highways and air connectivity.

We hope that with the increasing demand from international markets the current airlines will expand their services and new airlines will enter the market. We see a lot of potential for direct connections to Asian countries, including routes to the Middle East and Russia. On top of this, Lima should continue to strengthen its position as a regional transport hub as it holds an important geographic location, and can realistically look to serve as Asia’s door to the region.

Which industry niches are you currently pursuing?

CORNEJO: Peru is not a market for mass tourism. It is more a niche market. The tourists we are hoping to attract have higher-than-average spending power, higher-than-average cultural awareness and a specific interest in the product that is being offered.

Luckily, in today’s economic climate, whereas the mass-market tourist has tended to cut back, high-end and niche tourists continue to travel. We have seen growth in gastronomic tourism, with Lima emerging as a regional weekend destination. The added bonus is that an improved gastronomic offering benefits all tourists and improves the marketability of the country as a whole. The challenge now is to further internationalise our offerings and to raise quality further.

There are other niches that present good opportunities, including birdwatching. As one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, Peru is a natural destination for this market – it is all about having adequate infrastructure to welcome tourists. We are also looking to develop routes throughout the country that will focus on niche products such as coffee, cacao and textiles.