By Shannon McMahon
Peru's Machu Picchu, one of the world's most-visited tourism sites, reopened to daily visitors this week for the first time since March. The ancient Inca citadel, which previously saw up to 5 000 travellers per day in pre-pandemic high season, will now allow only 675 visitors per day.
Eight months after the coronavirus pandemic prompted Machu Picchu's closure, Peruvian officials held a reopening ceremony for the site on Sunday that highlighted local traditions as well as its reception of a "Safe Travels" stamp, a global standard of health and safety protocols laid out by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
"I am proud to deliver the Safe Travels seal to the Machu Picchu destination. Now visitors as soon as they think of returning to our wonder of the world will be sure that strict biosecurity protocols are followed here. Tourism is returning, responsibly and gradually," Tourism Minister Rocío Barrios said at the ceremony.
The reopening of Machu Picchu kicks off new efforts to restart tourism in Peru, including its reopening of land borders and resumption of flights from Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia, Panama, Uruguay and Chile. According to Peru's tourism board, international flights under eight hours resumed in October.
This summer Peru's coronavirus mortality rates was among the highest in the world while South America struggled with case counts.
Tests for entry to Peru must be taken no more than 72 hours before arrival, and airports are implementing health screenings for international arrivals, according to the US Embassy in Peru. The US State Department still assigns it a Level 4 Do Not Travel advisory. The nation is requiring masks in public and is under a state of emergency until the end of November.
In October, the popular hiking destination opened for one day to a lucky traveller from Japan who had been living in the area since being stranded in the country when it went into lockdown in March. Jesse Katayama, 26, taught boxing lessons to children in Aguas Calientes for several months before the government allowed the site to open for him. Locals had brought Katayama's case to the Peruvian Ministry of Culture ahead of his scheduled departure from the country, and officials made an exception.
"He'd come to Peru with the dream of getting in," Peruvian Culture Minister Alejandro Neyra told reporters at the time in a news conference, noting, "We are still in the middle of a pandemic. It will be done with all the necessary care."