Assistant Editor's Note: The following Op-Ed piece was submitted by Ben McIntosh, the Communications Director at Tucan Travel, an ATTA member, as an issue affecting all tour operators and travel providers who have trips on the Inca Trail.
This is a last-minute development in Peru that affects the allocation of Inca Trail permits to tour operators.
The association of travel agents in Cuzco, the AATC, who are authorized to sell Inca Trail Trek permits, has this year completely altered the way that it purchases permits for tour operators. In a nutshell, this will mean that tour operators cannot confirm Inca Trail Trek permits for clients travelling later in the year until later this month – particularly those travelling during the high season.
Until this Cuzco Inca Trail operators have bought permits on a first-come, first-serve basis. Although permits were not issued until January for treks that same year, those that requested the earliest were given priority. This meant that by encouraging clients to book as early as possible tour operators could be confident of getting permits for the dates of their tour. For later bookings, operators would know if there were permits available at the time the client booked.
This year, for unknown reasons, the association has decided that allocate the limited permits to themselves on what is essentially a lottery basis. How this new convoluted system works is that throughout February, trail permits for certain months will be offered to different tour operators in an order chosen at random.
None of the tour operators that offer the Inca Trails are happy with this new system as it makes it completely impossible to guarantee if clients booked to travel this year will be able to get a permit. Tucan Travel and others are doing everything they can to get the authority to revert to the old system, but in the meantime all operators must best they can within the new rules.
What this means for Tour operators and their clients
In practice, this means that all the permits Tucan Travel and all other operators have already requested are at the mercy of this lottery system.
There is real concern is for the high-season months of June, July and August. The lottery for these months is not scheduled to be drawn until later this month. At this stage operators have little idea where in the order they will be drawn, thus have no idea if there will be enough permits for their clients on the dates of their tours when it is their turn to request permits.
To reiterate, all tour operators are in exactly the same boat and can only cross their fingers that they will be drawn higher up the list.
This seems an inherently bad system as means there is nothing tour operators can do to guarantee permits for clients, and will have to tell clients booking tours that they may or may not be able to do the Inca Trail – one of the biggest highlights of any trip to Peru and the most iconic way to visit Machu Picchu.
If you would like any further information to clarify this situation or any quotes from management about what these changes mean for tour operators, please feel free to get in touch and I will be happy to help.
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