Machu Picchu to reopen again, at 40% capacity

Lima (AFP) –


Peru's most popular tourist site Machu Picchu will reopen on Monday at 40 percent capacity having been closed throughout February due to a coronavirus lockdown, a government source said.

"Daily, 897 people will be able to visit under strict health protocols," a culture ministry source told AFP on Thursday.

The ancient Inca citadel was closed for almost eight months during 2020 due to the pandemic before reopening in November, but a second wave of the virus forced it to close again.

Tourism has been the worst affected industry in Peru by Covid-19.

"We need to reactivate and look ahead," Jean Paul Benavente, the governor of the Cusco region where Machu Picchu lies, told radio RPP.

He said the region had lost $1.4 billion in 2020 due to the lack of tourists.

"There are secure corridors for tourists, we have to reactivate with great strength, but in a gradual and responsible manner."

Cusco region has recorded almost 14,400 coronavirus cases and 493 deaths this year and the government says infections remain "very high."

Cusco city, the former Inca capital, largely relies on tourism, as do the towns in the Sacred Valley that contain many archeological sites from the Inca and pre-Inca eras, including Machu Picchu.

Peru has decided to end the lockdown imposed on several regions due to a reduction in infections and the dire economic situation.

GDP fell 11.1 percent in 2020 but the tourism sector plunged by more than 50 percent, according to official figures.

Machu Picchu ("Old Mountain" in Quechua) is considered the jewel of Peruvian tourism.

In 1983, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and in 2007, it was chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in a worldwide online survey.

The citadel, built in the 15th century, was "discovered" by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in July 1911, although some locals knew of its existence.