Peru: Tourism targets niche markets
While the archaeological site of Machu Picchu is expected to retain its place as Peru’s most popular tourist attraction, efforts are also under way to increase visitor numbers by developing other niche segments, including food, fashion and sport tourism.
The move forms part of the government’s plans to drive long-term growth in the tourism industry as it sets out to attract more than 3.5m international visitors to the country by 2016.
Around 70% of Peru’s tourists visit the country to see Machu Picchu, for which celebrations were held last year to mark the 100th anniversary of the site’s discovery. Just this month, Machu Picchu was named one of USA Today’s “10 incredible new adventures for 2012”. But a decision to restrict daily visitors to the site to 2500 for conservation purposes has highlighted the need to develop new segments in the country’s tourism sector.
Tourist arrivals in Peru rose by 9% in 2011, considerably higher than the global average of 4%, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism (Mincetur).
In total, 2.5m tourists visited Peru last year, collectively spending $3.3bn. Mincetur figures showed that the figure marked a 16% increase on tourism revenues for 2010. The government expects the number of tourists visiting Peru in 2012 to reach 2.8m, an increase of 12%.
The minister of foreign trade and tourism, José Luis Silva Martinot, said that decentralising the country’s tourism sector would enable Peru to capitalise on the interest it was generating internationally among potential visitors.
“We have seen there is a special interest in Peru and its nature around the world,” he told local media, “but if we want to keep growing above other countries and maintain an expansion of 9% in this sector we have to develop new activities.”
Tourism already forms a key component in the country’s wider economy, providing employment for 1.14m Peruvians last year, according the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). The WTTC anticipates that this figure, which represents 8.8% of total employment, will increase to 1.6m, or 9.9% of employment, by 2021. It also forecasts that the sector’s total contribution to GDP will rise from 10.4% in 2011 to 11.5% by 2021.
The authorities are keen to tap into Peru’s rich biodiversity, which spans its deserts, mountains, jungle and coastal regions, to boost visitor numbers. The country’s Amazon region has already earned a reputation as a prime destination for ecotourism. Recent photos in the international press of a long-unseen Peruvian tribe of Mashco-Piro Indians became a talking point around the world. The photos of the tribe, which was sighted near Manú National Park, highlighted Peru’s rich heritage while also showcasing the country’s vast expanses of untouched land.
The government is hoping that other emerging niche segments such as food, sports and fashion events will also play a part in raising Peru’s profile on the international stage.
Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, who plans to create a gastronomic complex in Lima’s San Isidro neighbourhood, is spearheading campaigns to put Peru’s cuisine on the map. “Just as the Louvre’s pyramid or the Pompidou Centre in an old Paris neighbourhood gave new life to these spaces, the combination of modernity and tradition allow (....) Lima to acquire a new gastronomic value,” he told the local media.
Meanwhile, the 2011 Lima Fashion Week brought more than $80m of revenue into the country, according to Peru’s Export and Tourism Promotion Board (Promperu). Around 1400 international buyers from Latin America’s fashion industry are estimated to make the trip to the city for the three-day event that takes place annually in April.
Peru’s efforts to raise its profile globally were given an additional boost this year when the country participated for the first time in the Dakar Rally, an annual long-distance, off-road race that moved from Europe to South America in 2009. Mincetur estimated that more than 500,000 Peruvians travelled to watch the various stages of the rally, with Lima hosting the race’s final stages.
Keen to build on the success of this year’s event and tap further into an important niche market, the Peruvian government has made an official request to host the opening stages of the 2013 rally. With the government pursuing this and other opportunities to diversify its tourism offerings, the sector should have ample chances to show the world it is a well-balanced investment.