In The AmericasAlejo Baltasar Rodríguez Cacio, General Director, investBA
What steps are necessary to diversify Peru’s tourism offer?
JUAN STOESSEL: One of the main steps to developing the country’s tourism offer is to increase connectivity between Cusco and other domestic airports. Better connections would facilitate access to many parts of the country without having to fly through Lima, while strengthening the tourism industry in the north and the rainforest regions. While the former is rich in history and has the potential to become a significant beach destination, the latter offers unique cruises through the Amazon River and visits to some of the most important parks in the region.
Although 80% of tourists only visit the southern regions of Peru, it is important to emphasise that the regions in the north and the east – the rainforest – have just as much to offer, but lack the necessary infrastructure and have poor connections to Cusco and other secondary cities.
What are the main challenges faced by the tourism industry?
STOESSEL: Peru’s tourism industry is still in a developing stage. The country’s tourism industry started growing in the mid-1990s, once peace and prosperity returned after decades of terrorism and economic hardship. Since then, tourism has recorded double-digit growth during a number of years.
Nevertheless, the industry’s growth has been hampered of late due to poor management of public administration. Bad leadership has led to serious delays and bottlenecks in infrastructure development, which has had a direct impact on the development of tourism in Peru.
The country has the potential to become one of the most important tourist destinations in the world due to its unique historical sites, its rich cuisine, its diverse culture and its strategic geographical location. However, good leadership and management is key to achieving this goal.
The current administration has a very ambitious plan to support the sector. This strategy is expected to contribute significantly to the goal of increasing the number of visitors to Peru from 3.5m to 7m by 2021. Among other measures, the plan will focus on tackling bottlenecks at the Jorge Chávez International Airport expansion project, improving access from the airport to the city and enhancing efficiency at the country’s border crossings.
Furthermore, we need to increase the number of Chinese and Indian tourists. With regards to the former, the government recently exempted Chinese nationals from a tourist and business visitor visa when visiting Peru for up to 180 days. The same has been done for Indian visitors.
Other measures needed include enhancing the country’s capacity to host large events and conventions, and inaugurating Lima’s New Convention Centre, which was finished two years ago but is yet to be awarded to an operating company.
Lastly, the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco needs imminent investment to increase its capacity and efficiency until the new airport in Chinchero is completed.
To what extent is there a need to increase bed capacity?
STOESSEL: There is no need for more beds in the Peruvian hotel industry. The private sector has been able to expand in line with the industry and respond to its demands, and is very likely to continue doing so in coming years.
Large foreign and domestic investments have met the industry’s demand for beds. In fact, the country has been very welcoming to foreign hospitality-sector investors, which has contributed significantly to the development of the industry. Thanks to these private investments, Peru can offer a wide variety of hotels, airlines, buses and restaurants.
How would you characterise the development of the domestic tourism industry in Peru?
STOESSEL: It was the increasing number of foreign arrivals and their interest in the country’s attractions that led to the development of domestic tourism. In the 1990s the middle class was close to non-existent, which explains why infrastructure for local tourism was not put in place until much later, once the middle class started to expand. Today, this is a target market that continues to show growth and sophistication, and as it develops so will the offer.