Long lines and overcrowding at Machu Picchu have led authorities to halt the sale of tickets granting access to Peru’s most popular tourist site until next Friday.
The decision was made after numerous visitors voiced their discontent at not being able to enter the ancient Incan citadel. Hundreds of tourists blocked the train tracks close to Machu Picchu to protest the fact they have not been able enter Machu Picchu since the beginning of the week due to overcrowding and overbooking by local tour operators.
"I paid a tour company for my ticket for one day with a guide,” said Eduardo Ponce, a Mexican tourist. “We paid extra for the bus to bring us here to Machu Picchu and they won't allow us to enter because we don't have a ticket to enter. We have the train ticket and the bus ticket."
As travel rebounds in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, destinations around the world are struggling to handle surging demand. The challenge is particularly pertinent at historical sites where authorities must balance queues of tourists with preservation and protection.
Machu Picchu has a maximum capacity of 4,044 people per day, but Peru’s minister of culture warned tourists of possible disinformation campaigns by local tour operators selling fake tickets. Alternatively, travellers are being enticed to take the train and purchase tickets upon arrival at the site, often discovering there are none to be had after arriving.
Tickets to enter Macchu Pichu are priced at about $60 for international visitors and $26 for Peruvians.
There has been a steady increase in visitors to the Unesco World Heritage site since it reopened in October 2020. The government of Peru has already increased capacity at the site twice this year. On July 17, the Ministry of Culture officially increased the daily capacity by 1,000 people.
In a Facebook statement, it said: "This decision took into consideration the conservation of the property to avoid irreparable damage that compromises its outstanding universal value, following the recommendations from Unesco.”
The country’s minister of foreign trade and tourism, Roberto Sanchez Palomino, subsequently tweeted the number of visitors would be further increased to 5,044 per day, but these additional tickets have yet to materialise. In response, frustrated locals announced they are going to strike.
The citadel was built in the 15th century as a religious sanctuary for the Incas at an altitude of 2,490 metres. In 2018, it attracted 1.5 million visitors. The UN has described it as “probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height".