Ruins are being ruined? Those who are protesting a new proposal by the governor of Cuzco think so.
Peru’s Machu Picchu is a coveted tourist destination and an increasingly popular one, particularly after 2007 when it was named one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World. Lower airfares to Peru and awareness about how remarkable this ancient Inca site is, have contributed to its popularity. Machu Picchu is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In a bid to attract an extra 5,000 tourists to the historical site, Cuzco’s governor Rene Concha Lezama wishes to extend Machu Picchu’s opening hours an extra three hours to meet the huge tourist demand. Current hours are 6am to 5pm, Lezama wants it open until 8pm.
Historians and conservationists, both local and international, are insisting that the quantity of visitors to Machu Picchu is already compromising the ruins. More would put unnecessary strain and further damage this important site. Right now the number of people allowed to see ruins is capped at 2,500; the additional three hours could possibly double that.
Daily maintenance is already required to prevent damage by tourists. Endangered lists are not restricted to flora and fauna; in 2012 the World Heritage committee considered including Machu Picchu to world heritage sites at risk of destruction.
The UNESCO World Heritage website acknowledges the Machu Picchu controversy, describing it as “a double-edged sword” as it is beneficial to the economy, yet also can had negative cultural and ecological impacts. It goes on to say that the growing amount of visitors to Machu Picchu “must be matched by an adequate management regulating access” to minimize the effects.
A new international airport in Cuzco was approved this year, bringing more people closer to this alluring mountaintop destination. As UNESCO suggests, working on the site’s infrastructure, is crucial. While Machu Picchu tops many travellers’ “bucket lists”, being a “pot of gold” for the economy certainly poses a grave conservation concern.
Should Machu Picchu welcome more tourists with extended opening hours? If not, would you change your mind if you knew proper management was in place? We welcome your comments below.