Canatur: Tourism in Peru up 12 percent

Peru, which boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in South America, is to welcome approximately 2 million tourists in 2008, a 12 percent increase from last year, reported Monday Peru’s National Tourism Association, or Canatur.

“The main attraction continues to be cultural tourism,” said Canatur President Eduardo Arrarte, “and especially the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.”

The site’s inclusion last year to the new list of world wonders set off an unprecedented increase in the number of visitors, totaling a record-breaking 800,158 in 2007.

And, according to Mercedes Aráoz, the Minister of Commerce and Tourism, the nomination should lead to a 12.5 percent increase this year, totalling over 900.000 national and foreign visitors to the ruins.

Eco and adventure tourism are also on the rise, argued Arrarte, and should increase by 20 to 25 percent in 2008.

In addition to the usually popular destinations that include the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, the lost city of Machu Picchu and the enigmatic Nacza lines, tourists are gaining interest for natural parks and reserves such as the Huascaran National Park (Ancash), Paracas Nature Reserve (Ica), Junín Natural Reserve, Manu National Park (Cuzco) and, among others, Tambopata Nature Reserve (Madre de Dios).

And, said Arrarte, Peru’s cuisine, which is considered one of the most diverse in the world and is on par with French, Chinese and Indian cuisine, is also attracting high end tourists with an appetite for gastronomy.

“Peruvian cuisine is internationally recognized and is in the top three of the world’s best cuisines, along with the Chinese and Italian,” said Arrarte.

But, Peruvian culinary arts aren’t gaining popularity abroad only as a result of the government’s promotional efforts, argued Arrarte, Peru’s private enterprise has also played a crucial role.

“The government took on the important task of marketing abroad,” said Arrarte, “but it is complemented by the efforts of many national chefs that have opened their restaurants around the world in order to promote Peruvian cuisine.”

Tourists from neighbouring countries travel to Peru especially for the food, contended Arrarte.

“For example, friends and businessmen from Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil come only to eat. They arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday,” he said.

Peru’s most famous and mouth-watering dishes include the cebiche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), the pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked in an underground pit), and cuy (guinea pig).

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