Wednesday, March 19, 2014

VOXXI: Nudity and vandalism challenge Peru’s tourism

Nudity and Vandalism Challenge Peru's Tourism
W. Alejandro Sanchez
March 19, 2014
Originally published:

Peru’s tourist sites are currently besieged by two major challenges. One of these sounds slightly amusing: “nude tourism,” which, as the name implies, constitutes taking a photo of yourself at a famous landmark while fully nude. Meanwhile, a more severe challenge in Peru’s Cuzco region is vandalism of historical landmarks.
A cornerstone of Peru’s booming economy is its tourism industry. According to recent statistics, over three million tourists traveled to Peru in 2013 to visit its wonders, from the ruins of the Inca Empire (such as the famous Machu Picchu Citadel) and pre-Inca cultures, to the country’s Amazon rainforest and major shopping areas in border cities like Tacna.

“Nude tourism”

The amusing side of Peru’s challenges regarding tourism will be to encourage foreigners to keep their clothes on when they visit historical sites.
This past March 12, four foreign tourists were arrested in two separate incidents as they were taking photographs of themselves nude in the Machu Picchu citadel. Two of the tourists were Canadians while the other two were Australians. According to reports, one of the Australian tourists tried to bribe a local security guard so that he would not notify the police. The attempted bribe was not successful.
The arrested tourists were taken to a police station in Machu Picchu, where the memory disks of their digital cameras were confiscated.
Three days later, on March 15, four more tourists, all Americans, were also arrested for taking photos of themselves naked at Machu Picchu. While these individuals were not successful in snapping a nude photo at the famous Inca ruins, others have in fact succeeded.
In response to this growing wave of unwanted nudity in a historical location, Cuzco’s regional director of culture, Ricardo Ruiz Caro, has announced that park guards will increase surveillance to “avoid these unfortunate events that threaten cultural heritage”.

Cracking down on vandalism

However, “nude tourism” is not the only problem that Peru is facing nowadays. A more serious issue is criminals defacing important cultural landmarks.
At 3:26am on Sunday, March 9, a security camera recorded an unidentified man  spray painting  the letters “JHK” on Cuzco’s famous “twelve angle stone,” in the city’s center. The twelve angle stone has been a usual hotspot for tourists for decades (I visited Cuzco and the stone as a child). Local authorities have very carefully removed the spray paint from the stone.
Tragically, other historical locations in Cuzco have also fallen victim to vandalism. In early March, unknown individuals spray painted a wall of a famous Inca town known as Ollantaytambo. Days later, on March 15, a Peruvian citizen and a Norwegian tourist were arrested when they were panting a house that was constructed during Peru’s colonial era.
Major historical sites around Cuzco have guards and security cameras, but they have proven to be largely ineffective, as exemplified by the aforementioned incidents. Besides the obvious necessity for more guards, what is needed is a desire among the Peruvian population to protect the country’s heritage, instead of destroying it.

Tourism: Cornerstone of the economy

While Peru’s economy centers on its mining and agricultural industries, tourism is also a vital sector that has allowed the Andean nation to increase not only its revenues but also its international image.
Recent statistics demonstrate that Peru’s ongoing stability and development encourage foreigners to visit the country’s cultural and natural wonders. This past December, Carlos Canales, President of Peru’s National Chamber of Tourism, declared that tourism in Peru had increased by 12% in 2013 as compared to 2012, which translates to 3.25 million tourists who visited the Andean country.
Canales explained that 1.2 million individuals carried out “border tourism,” namely entering Peru’s border cities to shop or visit the region. One prime destination is Peru’s southern city of Tacna, which is regularly visited by Chilean citizens.
Most tourists visiting Peru come from Chile, the U.S., Brazil, Spain, Argentina and Ecuador.
Nevertheless, like in any part of the world, attracting tourists from abroad is heavily reliant on internal security. Reports of violence and insecurity easily dissuade foreigners from visiting tourist destinations, and the local population will suffer from the loss of foreigners that come to spend their savings.
An example of this occurred in late 2013 when protests started in Peru’s southern region of Puno. Local authorities explain that because of the civil unrest, around 1,500 tourists cancelled their trips to the area. Puno’s Directorate of External Commerce and Tourism argues that the area lost some 250 thousandnuevos soles (around 88 thousand US dollars).
While “nude tourism” can be regarded as a victimless crime, Peruvians are proud and protective of their cultural heritage, especially anything related to the Incas. Moreover, from a more practical level, tourism is a huge industry for Peru and a vital source of revenue for Peruvians living in tourist hotspots. Unsurprisingly, running around nude in Machu Picchu or spray painting the twelve angle stone in Cuzco has been widely reported on by the local media as it is an offense to the Andean country’s proud history.

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