By: Elmer Mamani (Arequipa)
There is a feeling of poverty in the districts that make up the Colca Valley, in the Arequipa province of Caylloma. “It’s heartbreaking,” says Wilber Mamani Llica, manager of the Colca and Annexes Autonomous Authority (Autocolca).
This entity manages the income that the tourist ticket leaves to enter the different natural places of one of the deepest canyons in the world.
First the pandemic, then the outbreak of social upheaval. Before the health crisis, the number of foreigners who arrived in the valley in the first two months of the year reached 7,000, today there are not even 1,000.
35% of its population is dedicated directly or indirectly to the businesses that articulate the tourism: lodgings, restaurants, crafts, transportation, among other activities.
In Colca, there are 5,000 entrepreneurs, some transport visitors in their vehicles, others are potato, quinoa, corn, and meat farmers that supply restaurants. That whole business chain has been broken. “They have forced some businesses to close. Others endure, but have prolonged periods of no income. Many have simply changed direction,” said Mamani Llica.
Those directly involved are 1,200 families with hotels, restaurants, adventure tourism, horseback riding and even artisans.
For example, 90% of textile artisans have been affected. Many of them are now engaged in trade, construction, or have migrated.
experiential. Tourists practice the ancestral of the place. Photo: diffusion
“With fewer artisans we lose part of our cultural heritage, we cut a generational transmission line. It is dangerous to allow ourselves the luxury of losing the main exponents of crafts,” said the official. The Colca was home to two civilizations of ancient Peru: the Collaguas and Cabanas.
The lack of income from ticketing in Autocolca led to the dismissal of 50% of its field and administrative staff, from park rangers to church caretakers or health personnel for visitors. From having 28 administrators they went to 18, in the field they had 60 and now there are only 38, church security went from 50 to 25.
If things stay the same Mamani estimates that they will not reach the end of 2023 with at least S/1 million in income. Only in January and February they collected S/180,000.
If these two months are compared, they barely reach 10% of international tourists and 30% of nationals that they had in 2022. By 2023 they expect at least 150,000 and only at Easter some 5,000. The president of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (NOW), Teresa Rubina points out that the south has a circuit for foreigners: Cusco, Puno and Arequipa.
As long as the protests continue in the altiplano region, it will be difficult for the flow of foreign visits to resume. The Autocolca manager maintains that due to the protests many tourist packages were canceled until June. Since that month, they expect a recovery that will save the year.
Income from tour operators does not even reach 10%
The past president of the Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies of Arequipa (AVIT), Jorge Valderrama Salinas, argued that it is the south that bears the greatest tourism crisis in the country. Arequipa, Cusco, Puno, Puerto Maldonado, Ica, Moquegua and Tacna.
“There is no immediate reaction from the central government. There is no support from PromPerú for small and medium-sized companies,” he said.
So far this year, tourism operators have not generated even 10% of income.
For the representative of the sector, the Government must provide resources to finance them, in addition to promoting the country in national and international fairs. This to raise the image of the country affected by social conflict.
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