Interview: Claudia Cornejo

How is the ministry working to develop the sector?

CLAUDIA CORNEJO: It is important for Peru to have a specific goal for the tourism industry because this service-related sector is linked to many other parts of the economy. At present, we have a strategic national plan for tourism that runs to 2018, but we are prepared to extend the initiative through 2021. In the past few years, we have been able to engage relevant actors at the national and regional levels to give greater importance to the tourism industry, which is the third-largest contributor to GDP after mining and fishing. Tourism has the potential to create more jobs than other sectors, and we expect 1m direct and indirect jobs in 2012 will be linked to this industry. By 2016 we expect tourism to be the second-biggest contributor to GDP. Still, we must continue stressing tourism’s value before it is fully appreciated by the authorities and civil society.

How will you persuade investors to develop tourist facilities in central and northern Peru?

CORNEJO: As a government, we have the responsibility to assist developing areas by making them more attractive to foreign investors. We provide special tax breaks for investments greater than $5m, and the returns start even before a project’s completion, allowing the capital to be used for construction. The north provides tremendous opportunities, and the demand for services, hotels and restaurants is rapidly increasing. We want to encourage the private sector to take advantage of this situation, given the real demand and availability of disposable income.

How will you tackle informal tourism and streamline the licensing process?

CORNEJO: We are aware of the need to improve regulation of the tourism industry. The ministry is working to understand how we can both improve management and facilitate growth through investment. Effective regulation is a complex process, but will endeavour to have presented several solutions by the end of 2012.

Presently, unregulated tourism offers occur in many spheres, from travel agencies to hotels, to tour operators and beyond. We are now mainly focusing on providing a better licensing process for travel agencies, and we are working closely with the private sector as we address other informal tourism issues. We remain careful to not impose too many prerequisites so that we do not create disincentivising barriers.

What are Peru’s main source markets?

CORNEJO: Tourists from neighbouring countries are our main visitors, accounting for 43% of total arrivals. This is attributed to their proximity and because the economies of Chile, Colombia and Brazil are doing very well. However, the number of Asian tourists travelling abroad will grow significantly in the coming years, greater than the EU and North America. To tap further into the Asian markets, we must improve connectivity, and we are in talks with several target countries and airlines. At the same time, we continue reaching out to traditional markets like the US, Spain, France and Germany, as those tourists are increasing as well.

How much potential is there in domestic tourism?

CORNEJO: In 2008, most countries learned the important lesson of not relying exclusively on inbound tourism. In times of difficulty, national tourists are the supporting backbone. Our budget to promote domestic tourism has grown from 2% of the total to 18% in the past five years. Increasing the number of Peruvian holidaymakers requires both changing consumer behaviour and catering to their needs. A wider range of specialised services combined with Peruvians’ higher incomes will lead to greater domestic tourism.

What is your forecast for the tourism industry in the next three to five years?

CORNEJO: I am extremely optimistic; tourism has so much potential. In 2011, we had around 2.5m visitors and the idea is to increase this to at least 3.6m by 2016.