Tourism in Peru is highly competitive. In Cusco alone, there are reported to be 1700 operators vying for your business, with some 7000 nationwide. This has led to many cutting corners and offering sub-standard services in order to out-compete others on price.
Combined with the lack of adequate regulation, the result is that the current model of tourism has become problematic.
Problems with tourism in Peru
Overcrowding at key sites, destruction of fragile habitat, construction in protected areas to cater for tourists and the accelerated and uncontrolled changes to rural lifestyles are just some of the problems occurring as a result of increasing demand for adventure travel, and the ability of anyone to declare themselves an operator.
Of the estimated 1700 operators in Cusco, 37% are not even licensed to sell tours according to DIRECTUR– the regional trade and commerce board with who any operator must register.
The end result is a deterioration in the quality and safety of the visitor experience. This year alone has seen various accidents including some fatalities.
All could have been avoided if proper safety procedures and regulations were in place and adhered to.
The role APTAE is playing to solve these problems
This month, representatives from over 30 operators, got together in Cusco to try and solve some of these issues. In fact, they have been working behind the scenes to try and resolve issues for many years.
APTAE, The Peruvian Association for Adventure and Ecotourism, was formed 35 years ago. Currently, there are 57 members. While the majority are tour operators, there are also universities, hotels, lodges and a handful of individual members who work in a support role to the tourist sector.
While their original goal was to promote Peru as a destination for adventure and ecotourism, with time, the focus has changed. Getting people to come, is no longer the issue. Ensuring that tourism is done in a way that will allow people to still come to these places in years to come, is now the issue that needs addressing. Uncontrolled tourism is jeopardising the very things people come for.
APTAE is currently working with the ATTA and government authorities to implement a system of licensing for individual adventure activities. So far rafting is the only activity to have a licensing system in place. Unsurprisingly, the only operators that have taken the necessary steps to become licensed are all APTAE members.
Other issues it is tackling include reducing the use of single-use plastic and fighting to make the Inca Trail experience better for all.
“But the goal is not to be an exclusive club”, says Carlos Diaz, President of APTAE, “The aim is that every operator in Peru raises its standards and values to work at the same high level and become licensed in the activities they offer, creating a safer and more sustainable tourism industry in Peru.”
Not everyone wants to solve these problems
The sad truth is that most companies here do not meet those standards. Not in terms of safety, nor in terms of protecting the environment in which their activities take place.
In fact, many tourism companies here actively oppose the push for higher standards and regulations. To run an operation well costs more. Guides need more training, wages need to be higher to attract suitably experienced staff, equipment needs to be replaced more often and the quality of the equipment needs to be higher. Thus, the price of the trip will be higher.
Tourists themselves also have to accept some of the blame for driving down quality. The constant demand for lower prices in some sectors of the market hinders the growth of safe and sustainable tourism in Peru.
Peru is a fantastic place to come on an adventure holiday. But for the safety of your clients and for the future of the natural areas they come to experience, it is vital that you choose suitable local operators. To find out which operators are working to the standards you and your clients need, contact APTAE, [email protected]
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