Peru: Promoting the Amazon
With the recent listing of Peru’s Amazon region as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature and several new initiatives aimed at promoting the area to international visitors, Peru is aiming to raise the profile of a burgeoning tourism growth segment. Additional infrastructure will be needed, however, to link the region to more developed urban centres.
New7Wonders, a Swiss organisation that allows individuals to vote online for inclusion on the list, awarded the Amazon’s new designation at an inauguration in mid-August. José Luis Silva, the minister of international trade and tourism, believes this new distinction could lead to a substantial increase in tourism to the Amazon region, as well as to the country as a whole.
According to Silva, in the years following Machu Picchu’s designation as a world wonder, tourist visits to Peru increased by 27%. Silva expects the Amazon’s inclusion on this new list of natural wonders will lead to at least a 15% increase in tourism, but he is hoping that the growth in visitors will be even more significant.
The sector as a whole is ripe for growth. In the first six months of the year, tourism grew by 11% over the same period in 2011, according to the South American Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (Conferencia Sudamericana de Inversión en Hotelería y Turismo).
Much of the effort to promote the Amazon region’s tourism industry centres on the development of the country’s north-western tourism circuit, which includes the regions of La Libertad, Lambayeque, Cajamarca, Amazonas, San Martín and Loreto, and focuses on the cultural and anthropological heritage of these areas, as well as their unique ecological attributes.
One project currently under development by Proinversión, a government agency that promotes investment in Peru, is the development of a cable car system to improve access to the Kuelap fortress in the Amazon. The fortress is a series of archaeological ruins associated with the indigenous Chacapoyas community. On completion, the cable cars will travel between the district of Tingo and the Kuelap site, cutting travel time from one-and-a-half hours by road to 20 minutes.
The project will require an estimated $10m investment from the private sector. While Proinversión is still working with the Ministry of International Trade and Tourism (Ministerio de Comercio Exterior y Turismo) to iron out the details of the agreement, bidding is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Luis del Carpio, the chief of tourism and real estate projects at Proinversión, recently told local press he has already seen a lot of interest in the project from potential bidders. This may be due to the fact that the number of visitors to Kuelap has nearly tripled in less than a decade, from approximately 10,000 in 2004 to more than 29,000 in 2011.
In addition to Kuelap’s cable cars, Victor Isla, the president of congress, and Yván Vasquez, the regional president of Loreto, are supporting plans to develop a new museum in the Amazon. The National Amazon Museum will be aimed at displaying and preserving the cultural heritage and history of the region.
Finally, the Amazon is also featured as a primary tourist destination alongside the country’s main attraction, Machu Picchu, in the country’s latest international tourism campaign. The Commission for the Promotion of Peru for Export and Tourism (PromPerú) recently launched a new campaign, dubbed “Peru: Empire of Hidden Treasures”.
It features a television commercial that resembles a movie trailer, highlighting Peru’s hotels, cuisine and natural wonders. Over the next year, the campaign will be launched in 16 countries. Silva has said he hopes the initiative will help increase tourism flows by 9% by the end of 2014.
There are still some regional issues to address, however. Protests surrounding the Conga mining project in the Cajamarca region continue to limit this area’s potential for tourism. Additionally, a lack of reliable and affordable transportation options connecting Lima with the northwest also serve as deterrents to local and international tourists alike. The region would greatly benefit from an increase in the number of airports and flight connections, as well as a more extensive highway network. Until Peru improves connectivity and transport infrastructure in the country, the country’s potential for tourism will continue to be limited.