Peruvian authorities Wednesday decided to increase by a third the capacity of the archeological Machu Picchu ruins to welcome visitors, in a move to help the site's recovery after years of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing economic consequences.
According to the Ministry of Culture, the stone citadel's capacity had been upped from 3,044 to 4,044 people to boost the economy of the Andean region of Cusco. Before the pandemic, some 4,100 visitors entered it daily.
It is a temporary measure that will only be valid through December 31. If the conditions are not met, we return to the previous capacity, a ministry official was quoted as saying. The important thing is to take care of the citadel and it is something we are not going to leave aside. The mission of the Ministry of Culture is to preserve the heritage.
The announcement sparked criticism among specialists. Former Machu Picchu chief, the anthropologist Fernando Astete argued that massive turnout creates problems for the citadel, said Astete, who added that he hoped proper professional counseling had been received when taking the measure. It is not just a decision of officials; Unesco should be made aware of the decision to change, he stressed.
There has always hovered the intention of increasing the maximum charge. This comes from wild mercantilism that starts from not understanding what Machu Picchu's historical memory means and that we must preserve forever and ever, former site director David Ugarte told La Republica.
Researcher Bertha Bermúdez regretted in statements to El Comercio that they always want to bring more and more tourists to Machu Picchu.
In 2021, some 447,800 people visited the citadel, far below the 1.5 million it welcomed in 2019. In 2020, when it was closed for eight months because of the pandemic, it had only had 274,500 visitors. In the first half of 2022, some 400,000 tourists have visited the place.