Cusco protests continue, leaving tourists stranded

Thousands of tourists were stranded after commercial flights were canceled and roads blocked to Cusco, as protests over a tourism development law continue today.

Authorities suspended commercial flights to Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete airport and  halted train service to Machu Picchu, Peru’s top tourist attraction and ancient citadel of the Incas to prevent property damage and protect tourists. However, in a second day of demonstrations, protesters further isolated the city and prevented access to other archaeological and historic sites today.

According to daily El Comercio, protestors blocked the main highways connecting Cusco to the rest of the country. They also staged demonstrations throughout the city, including the central plaza and Sacsayhuaman, a former Inca fortress on the edge of Cusco.

Tourism sector stands to lose 20 million soles, about $6.8 million, a day due to the protests, experts predicted. Tourism and hotel consultant, Percy Tapia, told Radio Programas radio the strike will also have a great influence on future tourism to the city. “For every tourist affected in Cusco, 12 will not come in the future,” said Tapia.

The protests are organized by the department’s Regional Assembly following Congress’ approval of the tourism development law last week, which would ease private investment adjacent to Peru’s rich archaeological ruins and historic sites. The legislation includes language  local authorities decide which sites are opened for private development.

Regional presidents in departments like Amazonas, Lima, Piura and Huanuco have lauded the legislation. They say private concessions will help them restore lesser-known archaeological ruins and attract visitors to economically depressed areas in dire need of tourism revenue.

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