Travel News

Machu Picchu tourism suffering after week of protests against new ticketing system

Simon Calder’s Travel

The streets, hotels and restaurants around the ruins of Machu Picchu — Peru’s most famous tourist attraction — remained almost deserted Wednesday, with train service to the area canceled amid a week-long protest over the outsourcing of entry ticket sales to a private company.

Small businesses and workers in the tourism sector fear the new ticketing system imposed by Peru’s government 10 days ago will hurt them while benefiting big companies, and their protests have slowed visitor arrivals to a trickle.

“This seems like the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, you hardly see any people,” said Roger Monzón, an employee at the Inkas Land hotel in the Machu Picchu district, an 18-room building currently housing only two tourists from Portugal.

Train service to the area was suspended late Friday until further notice, so the few tourists who persist in going, most of them young, leave the Andean city of Cusco in cars that take them 210 kilometers (130 miles) to a hydroelectric plant. From there they walk two hours to reach the Machu Picchu district, where they rest. Then they have to walk to the stone citadel for 2 1/2 hours.

The protests, which began Jan. 24, are in response to the government’s decision to outsource the sale of tickets for entering the Machu Picchu site to Joinnus, a virtual ticket sales platform owned by one of the wealthiest economic groups in Peru.

Previously, tickets to Machu Picchu were handled by an online portal of a state entity that operates out of Cuzco.

The government says the use of the private platform seeks a transparent sale of tickets. It says a market for the sale of unregistered tickets was detected in 2023 that had caused a loss of $1.8 million for tickets not reported by state offices.

Tourism workers and small tourist operators say they do not trust the new system, claiming it will favor big tourist operators in detriment of free competition and small business owners.

They say there is no legal way to guarantee confidentiality for personal data that the Joinnus platform obtains from tourists — telephone numbers, emails and date of visit to the citadel. They worry the information could be transferred to big tourism companies that would then be able to offer accommodations, food and transfer services to tourists in advance, giving them an advantage over smaller operators.

Protesters want the new system…

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