An Update from ATTA Members in Peru

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Voices From the Field is a space for the benefit of our members to build awareness within our global community. The views and opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily ATTA’s, nor do we endorse them by their publication. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Thank you to the following ATTA Members who have contributed statements below:

  • Daniel Muñoz Sáez of RESPONSible Travel Peru
  • Nick Stanziano of SA Expeditions
  • Martín Romero of Explorandes
  • Members of the Peruvian Adventure Travel Ecotourism and Specialized Tourism Association (APTAE)
Daniel Muñoz Sáez– RESPONSible Travel Peru

As the Sustainability and Content Manager of RESPONSible Travel Peru, Cusco-based Daniel Muñoz Sáez seeks to raise awareness about the current plight of tourism in Peru and the country as a whole.

Peru is a country that anybody would consider a worldwide tourism jewel, but in reality – and very unfortunately – it is also an unpredictable shapeshifter that can turn into a nightmare for agencies, operators, and travelers when things get sketchy. The current situation confirms it.

A month of social turmoil has been affecting everyday life mainly (but not exclusively) in the southern regions of Peru. It all started in response to the conflict between the executive and legislative powers in the first week of December. They engaged in battle, with former President Castillo attempting to dissolve the Congress, and the immediate response of it being the impeachment of the President and proclamation of his successor as the new head of State – the first woman in history to take on leadership in our male chauvinistic country.

Protesters have taken to the streets claiming the renouncement of the new President, the dissolution of the Congress, and a new Constitution.

As a consequence, what can be seen are roadblocks (as well as railway blocks), public and private property being attacked (including hotels and restaurants), airports being occupied, retail and markets closing. Sequestered people, human loss, and a fractured society come along with it as well. This society is now paying the monetary cost of the lack of products and scarce services, not to mention the impossibility to attend work.

Trying to explain what is occurring in Peru nowadays might be an erroneous approach. Maybe only some of the causes for the current situation can be dug out. Here, we can only recognize the faults of Peru’s institutions and political leaders, identify the different claims of its VERY diverse society, and try to save Peruvian tourism from stigmatization, while consulting colleagues with experience in similar situations.

There is unanimity that tourism can be a force for good, but it can only be effective if it is strongly supported by a national policy. Today, Peruvian tourism is seriously harmed and not able to do anything for anyone.

The challenge for Peru is to create a fair environment that promotes well-being. Its absence is a persistent flaw resulting from many decades of bad administration, where corruption, centralism, racism, and other issues like the lack of morality, have prevented society from access to quality education, health services, economic security, safety from crime, and a decent way of living.

One of the multiple effects of this bad administration is the lack of formality, which is very present in the tourism sector. Thus, despite being a great source of income and job opportunities, tourism has exploited resources and people for a long time, the only purpose of it being profit. Sustainability has rarely been taken into account. However, unsustainable tourism is as destructive as the other negative forces mentioned before. And to try to give tourism a fresh start over can be compared to the challenge of climbing our highest mountain.

At this point, there is a feeling that neither foreign business (and this includes human and financial capital from Lima) nor travelers are very welcome. Meanwhile, some keep thinking that marketing campaigns will bring back tourists to this country, or that increasing the daily capacity of visits to Machu Picchu will solve things magically.

The jewel, the cradle of gold, has been ransacked. Can regenerative tourism be the key?

Nick Stanziano – SA Expeditions

SA Expeditions’ Co-Founder and CEO Nick Stanziano, an American-Peruvian writing from Peru, gives a summary of the recent social strife in the country which he says, “is much more complicated than it seems – and the western press coverage is barely skimming the surface.” A longer version of this article can be read on the SA Expeditions Blog where it was originally published.

Last month, Peru instated its sixth president in the past four years, Dina Boluarte. Her predecessor, Pedro Castillo, had just attempted a ‘Hail Mary’ to stay in office by unconstitutionally trying to dissolve the congress, which was hours away from removing him. He also claimed, with nervous hands, in a televised address that he wanted to reform the state institutions and put in place a 90-day curfew. 

He has since been given 18 months of preventive imprisonment for the attempted coup and has claimed as a defense that he doesn’t remember giving such a ludicrous decree. Regardless, the instability has kicked off social convulsions across the country at a level of intensity rare even for Peru, where protests are common.

Castillo, a teacher from the rural Andes had a weak mandate at best, and won by only 45,000 votes in a tight run-off. He ran as an extreme left-wing candidate and received only 19% of the first-round votes. He burned through 80 government ministers in his 18 months of office, and struggled to even communicate clearly, let alone lead a country of 33 million people. Boluarte, who got the job by default as his Vice President, is also a leftist, but has a better command of language, and has promised new elections. Having these elections as soon as possible, dissolving the congress, and rewriting the constitution are just some of the disparate demands of protesters.

The instability that has wracked Peru for the past five years and especially the last week, seems almost unbelievable, but a deeper look shows a different picture. Through these five years, Peru, as a major economy in Latin America, has clocked inflation at 7.8% (that’s lower than the US), with GDP growth of 2.7% (around the average of its regional neighbors) and bolsters of some of the healthiest foreign reserves ($69.4 billion currently) in its recent history. Even its currency, the Peruvian Sol, was barely affected by the tumult of the past week.

Peru is a mineral, agricultural, and maritime rich country that feeds a global thirst for commodities. The steady behavior of its star central bank president, Julio Velarde, over the past 16 years, seems to view the musical chairs of the presidency as nothing more than a distraction that feeds the salacious political reporting consumed nightly by Peruvians. This is coupled with a relatively effective armed forces, whose guns, discipline, and support have been the final arbiter of constitutional matters of the highest order – like whether the president or the congress was constitutionally correct in their actions last week. 

But the circus that is Peru’s executive and legislative branch can also be viewed through an alternative lens. This lens focuses on the country’s deep class divisions, running along geographic and cultural lines, that go back to the country’s colonization by Spain in the 16th century. Deep-seated ethnic and economic inequality means that today far too many Peruvians live a life of struggle. Colonialism’s legacy is a hard thing to kick, and in Peru, skin color, language, and the proportion of European blood in one’s veins dictate much of how society organizes itself. One quarter of the country of 33 million people speak Quechua, the main pre-Columbian language, and 30% of the population lives in poverty. Peru even codifies this distinction of class and wealth, by categorizing its society into economic segments from A to D, with A being the most affluent, and D, representing the poorest of the poor masses. 

Also consider that the regional fiefdoms of Peru’s rural south have been the center of the protests, which included attacking and burning down police stations and public records. Not coincidentally, the first convulsions erupted in the region of Apurimac, which is precisely the main route for raw coca paste that’s trafficked out of the growing regions of the high jungle, and the stronghold of narco-terrorists over past decades. Narcotrafficking undeniably influences the situation in some way, and it also infects much of civil society. Precisely measuring narcoterrorism’s influence is tricky as it’s always hidden from view – either in inaccessible regions of the jungle or dressed up as professional politicians. The fact that Peru’s battle against the cartels seems almost non-existent suggests that there’s a deep underbelly that’s constantly getting pushed under the rug. All this puts doubts on the left’s claim that there is an authentic political reawakening of the masses, or even a broad-based political movement of any cohesion based in democracy.

The week of January 16-22, 2023, we saw increased protests in Lima within Plaza San Martin, where citizens historically voice their opinions. Local practices around political demands are unique to North America and more common. There is a palpable sense of inequality in Peru, blended with a myriad of other interests and influences whose goals go against an open democratic country, which Peru has been for the past 30 years. Therefore, Peruvians are balancing empathy for those protesting for an equal place in society while standing firm against vandals and criminality.

We’ve also seen continual and intermittent road blockades in Peru’s southern regions, including the rail lines to Machu Picchu, and the closure of Machu Picchu archaeological park and the Inca Trail until further notice. Keep in mind the Inca Trail closes every February for maintenance, the lowest month for tourism in the region due to rains. In providing some context, Machu Picchu town, over the past week, has publicly denounced the form of the protest (e.g., the criminal element) but expressed support for the political aims. We believe the site closure will be temporary, whereas the Inca Trail will remain closed through February for its annual maintenance.

Martin Romero – Explorandes

Explorandes General Manager, Martin Romero, offers context and his perspective on how the current events may impact tour operators and travelers in the coming months.

Peru has been going through a lengthy period of political instability in the past 4 years, evidenced by the 5 presidents we’ve had over that time period. On December 7th, a failed coup attempt by ex-president Pedro Castillo that was televised on national networks landed him in preventive prison for breaking the constitutional order. He now faces charges for corruption, leading a criminal organization and rebellion in 8 different judicial processes. Since his Vice President, Dina Boluarte took office by constitutional succession, protests started to intensify over the following days and weeks with violence erupting in many cities in the south of the country, mainly Juliaca, Arequipa, Cusco, Puerto Maldonado and Ica.  

Radical leftist groups funded by illegal mining and drug trafficking operations seized the opportunity to infiltrate marches led by social organizations, some with legitimate protests, and vandalize public infrastructure such as airports and public prosecutors’ offices. Approximately 50 people have died as a result, including protesters, a police officer, and innocent bystanders caught in the middle. Roadblocks across the southern regions of the country have nearly paralyzed the transportation and logistics sectors and blockages of the railroad to Machu Picchu and  temporary airport closures in Cusco, Arequipa and Juliaca, have crippled the post-pandemic recovery of the tourism industry.  

The diverse lists of demands in the protests led by diverse social organizations and the government have 3 common items:  1) the immediate resignation of President Boluarte, 2) moving the elections forward to 2023 – a second vote in congress is pending to confirm elections in 2024, and 3) installing a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution.  

Technically, none of these demands can be met under the current constitution, except the resignation of President Boluarte, which could have dire consequences for our already weakened democratic system. 

Last week the protests that had largely concentrated in the south were taken to Lima, demonstrating not only a high level of organization, but also a very well-funded campaign to destabilize the government. The marches in Lima created some chaos, including a fire in a building downtown and a couple of national universities that were raided by police, but fortunately there were no fatal casualties. 

Most of the protests of the past couple of months have been highly localized and passengers who chose not to cancel their trips have mostly been able to fulfill their itineraries, albeit with last minute changes, some early morning transfers to anticipate roadblocks, and flexibility to switch around programs at the last minute in order to guarantee safe passage from one point to the next. As of last weekend, the strikes have been mobilized to Machu Picchu, where they gain high visibility due to the huge impact that closing our number one tourist attraction has on worldwide headlines and the economy. Since the town of Machu Picchu lives off tourism, strikes that have taken place there tend not to last long as they end up in internal squabbles.  

While it is impossible to predict the future, one thing is certain is that these prolonged disruptions are hurting everyday citizens’ pockets, causing protests to lose support. In many cases, members of social organizations and rural communities are extorted into participating in roadblocks and marches with threats of fines and cutting off of water supplies for their crops if they don’t show up. This creates an unsustainable platform for protest, so whatever happens, it is hard to imagine that this level of disruption can last much longer. 

Our recommendation to outbound tour operators selling Peru is to plan on postponing trips that are programmed to take place in the next week or two as Machu Picchu remains closed for the moment, with no guaranteed reopening date. While the protests are weakening, they don’t show signs of being called off just yet.

If the government initiates, and demonstrators accept, a dialogue, much of the pent-up frustration of the rural and poorer sectors of the country that have legitimate reasons to protest will be less intense and impetus may be stemmed, while violent perpetrators in the marches are arrested and charged. Once all civil strife has been brought to a stop, we believe that the destination will recover and before Easter our tourist attractions will begin to receive visitors in sufficient numbers so that tourism services will begin to recover.

It will be a slow process after a complete shut-down of visitors due to Machu Picchú’s closure. April and May are great months, where the mountains are green, and the vegetation is blooming at the end of the rainy season. A great time of year for adventure travel.

Due to this, it will probably be a great year to visit with less crowds of tourists and a more  intimate journey with the sites and experiences available and open to all willing travelers.

PROMPERÚ – Official Statement

Peru’s Tourism Board shares some of the realities visitors may face if traveling to or around Peru, as well as resources for updates and assistance.

Peru has been implementing different actions in order to assist and guide national and foreign tourists in the different regions of the country. We work so cordial dialogue always remains as the best form of communication.

In this context, since January 15th the Government has declared the emergency state in the regions of Lima, Cusco, Puno; as well as in the constitutional province of Callao, the province  of  Andahuaylas  (Apurimac),  the  provinces  of  Tambopata  and  Tahuamanu (Madre de Dios) and the district of Torata (province of Mariscal Nieto, Moquegua). And since January 19th, it’s been declared the emergency state in the regions of Amazonas, La Libertad and Tacna. In both cases, the measure will rule for the next 30 days since its implementation.  

It’s important to mention that during the emergency state the constitutional rights related to  the  inviolability  of  domicile,  freedom  of  transit,  freedom  of  meetings  and  personal security are suspended.

Additionally,  the “mandatory social immobilization” has been decreed in the region of Puno for 10 days, which implies that the population of this zone must be confined in their domiciles between 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. 

In  reference  to  the  Inca  Manco  Capac  airport  of  Juliaca,  their  operations  remained suspended as a precautionary measure. While the operations in the Alfredo Rodriguez Ballon airport of Arequipa are restricted until further notice.

In  the  rest  of  the  airports  nationwide,  operations  have  been  running  normally.  It  is important  to  mention that  only  passengers  with  scheduled  flights  can  enter the airport terminals throughout the country. In case of special assistance required for the elderly, minors and/or people with limited mobility, they may enter with a companion. 

On the other hand, according to what was indicated by the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of Cusco, the entrance to the National Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu will be carried out normally at the established times. Tourists who cannot enter may use the purchased  ticket  for  up  to  one  month  after  the  strike  has  ended  or  request  a  refund through the email [email protected]

In addition, as announced by the concessionaire of the railway in the South and South East of  the country, Ferrocarril Transandino  S.A.,  railway  operations have  been suspended  since  January  4  only  in  the  following  section:  Cusco  –  Juliaca  –  Puno  and Juliaca – Imata – Pillones – Arequipa, from the southern railway.

And  the  railway  operations  in  the  route  Cusco  –  Ollantaytambo  –  Machupicchu  – Hydroelectric, and the branch line to Urubamba have been suspended until new notice. 

Tourists who require information can communicate with the following contacts: POLTUR Central Lima 01 4601060; IPERÚ WhatsApp +51 944492314 (text only); as well as to the email [email protected]

Furthermore, Mincetur makes available the form for the identification and location of the tourist who requires assistance:

The Peruvian Adventure Travel Ecotourism and Specialized Tourism Association (APTAE)

APTAE is a non-profit organization created in 1983 to strengthen the presence of adventure travel, ecotourism and other forms of specialized tourism in Peru. Thoughts from a few member associates are below.


“You may be wondering about what is happening in Peru right now, since the news that gets reported internationally sounds alarming. It is true that there is currently a level of political noise that Peru hasn’t seen for some time. Since former president Pedro Castillo was ousted in December, there have been road blockages and some violent demonstrations in the South region. Even the airports from some mayor cities such Juliaca and Arequipa were hit by the protestors. Rail service to Machu Picchu have been interrupted for a few days.

The reasons for this are complicated, but mainly it’s because existing social problems were exacerbated by the economic contraction caused by the Covid pandemic, and this has been complicated by rising prices and by some recent political drama that has resonated with an important segment of the rural population.

Covid is thankfully behind us, and inflation is expected to fall.  The political drama is a little more uncertain. The crux of the matter is that most of the rural and indigenous population don’t recognize Mrs. Boluarte as President since they felt she betrayed the party (Peru Libre) by taking the place of Pedro Castillo and don’t recognize the Peruvian Congress either, since they impeached Pedro Castillo after his coup d’etat.

They are demanding the following:

  • New elections, and in order to call an early election, the Peruvian Congress needs to vote twice to approve the measure, and these votes need to take place in two separate sittings.  The first vote was held and it was successful, so early elections have been approved in the first instance. This vote should be ratified in the next sitting, maybe as soon as in late February.
  • Resignation of President Boluarte and closure of the Peruvian Congress.
  • Calling a Constitutional assembly to change the Peruvian Constitution made by former president Fujimori.

Once the election issue is solved, the political noise should quieten down. Peru has always been a country of ups and downs, and in spite of disturbances, the country marches on.”


“Jungle operators have a business position on recommending travelers not come to Peru in the first quarter, proceed with caution and prior consultation in the second quarter, and schedule their trips for the second half of 2023. By then, everything will have probably calmed down with elections called and the campaign action. We should not bring tourists before, since it will leave a bad image and put their vacations at risk and also record and share blockades, strikes, etc.”


“Peru is going through a difficult political situation. For weeks now, protests have spread all over the southern part of the country, where around 50 people were killed in violent protests mainly in the area near Lake Titicaca (Puno).

These protests come after a failed attempt by ousted President Castillo to close Congress, destroy the present administration of Justice and take complete and unlimited control of power. Obviously it did not work out as planned and this criminal act ended up with his capture and placed in jail, where he remains.

Cusco and Machu Picchu are our main tourist attractions, and they are in the southern part of Perú. Visitors have been stranded in several places due to closed airports, roadblocks, and the blocking of the train to Machu Picchu, but slowly these originally stranded passengers have been able to continue with their travels. Machu Picchu and the Inca trail are now closed as a precaution until things settle down.

Government officials estimate that Machu Picchu will reopen in the next few days (as soon as the railroad opens), however, the Inca trail will remain closed until March (every year it is closed in February for maintenance). Once it reopens, chances are there will be few tourists at first and early birds will be able to enjoy Machu Picchu and/or the Inca Trail without crowds.”

Contributing members are responsible for the accuracy of content contributed to the Member News section of AdventureTravelNews.

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