Peru: cessation of tourism forces workers in the sector to retrain
A general view of the center of Cuzco, empty of tourists, June 24, 2020. Jose Carlos ANGULO / AFP
By: Wyloën Munhoz-Boillot Follow
Peru is one of the countries in the world most affected by the coronavirus.
For six months, borders have been closed and international flights suspended.
A catastrophic situation in the tourism sector which represents nearly 4% of the Peruvian economy.
In Cuzco, the country's leading tourist city, a third of the population is unemployed.
To face the crisis, some tourism players are retraining, while others are struggling to keep their jobs and are not short of ideas.
Report in Cuzco from our correspondent in the region.
Julio is a tourist guide.
He has been accompanying visitors on the Inca Trail for 18 years that connects Cuzco to Machu Picchu.
But since the start of the pandemic in Peru, Cuzco has emptied itself of its tourists, its main source of income.
The travel agency Julio worked for had to go out of business, leaving the father and his colleagues without work or resources.
Some guides became farmers, they started cultivating their fields or raising animals to feed their families.
Others, like me, do odd daily jobs, as a driver or loader, to survive.
Like them, more than 120,000 tourism employees have lost their jobs in Cuzco.
Guides, artisans, restaurateurs, travel agents, hoteliers.
This is also what happened to Bruno Rougegorge.
This Frenchman from Tarn and his Peruvian wife ran a café-inn in the center of Cuzco.
But the coronavirus crisis got the better of their business.
In April we had to make the difficult decision to lay off the staff.
It had been two years since we opened so we were still repaying the loans made to the family and we knew that if we had no more clients, we could not continue to tour.
Thanks to an arrangement with their owner, who agreed to lower their rent, Bruno and his wife were still able to stay in the establishment which also serves as their accommodation.
To meet their needs, Bruno decided to retrain, at least temporarily.
I was lucky to find a job.
A French-speaking Peruvian college called me and I found a job as a part-time teacher.
I earn a small salary, but at least it keeps us going.
A temporary job, time to think about the future.
But Bruno and his wife plan to leave Cuzco and tourism, because according to them, the city is likely to suffer for a long time from this crisis.
Just a few meters from their home, Claire and Juan, another Franco-Peruvian couple, manage a small trekking agency.
But they remain optimistic and have decided to innovate to save their business.
We offer tours of the historic center of Cuzco in French via WhatsApp.
We make an appointment at a specific time, we call the viewers and let's go for an hour of live viewing.
And it works !
In one month, Claire and Juan have already organized around ten virtual tours and are receiving more and more requests from France.
We have two colleges that are interested in doing that with Spanish classes.
It's also a nice birthday present, as was the case with a girl last week.
For people who like to travel, it's really exotic, it's ecological, useful, informative and it's very user-friendly.
So I think this is something that we will continue to offer even beyond the pandemic.
Claire is therefore optimistic and expects a gradual return of tourists, once international flights are restored.
But after six months of paralysis, the tourism sector in Cuzco recorded a loss of three billion soles, or 850 million euros.
And according to the Peruvian Minister of Tourism, Rocio Barrios, it will be necessary to wait until 2026 for the sector to regain its pre-pandemic health.
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