By Mac Lacy
CUSCO, Peru — Nearly 40 American volunteers joined Tourism Cares for its first international work project May 3-7 in Cusco.
Go Peru, as this global initiative was called, included a daylong travel industry symposium in Cusco with participants from both Peru and the United States, another day for a group excursion to Machu Picchu, the country’s internationally known Incan preservation site, and a daylong work project in Cusco at Mercado Central de San Pedro, the city’s downtown market.
“Peru made sense for our first international project on a number of fronts,” said Tourism Cares CEO Bruce Beckham. “Dr. Don Hawkins of George Washington University has spent a lot of time down there, and Robin Tauck was a primary supporter of an international project for Tourism Cares. She, too, thought Peru was a logical choice for us.
“Then when Carlos Alberto Arrarte, president of Lima Tours, came up and saw our project in Mystic, Conn., a couple of years ago, he wanted to do replicate the Tourism Cares effort in Peru.
“I made a trip to Cusco to see what type of project we could do there,” said Beckham. “The restoration of their marketplace, Mercado Central de San Pedro, was perfect. It was badly in need of repair and painting, and it is a site that travelers to Cusco should plan to see.”
The educational forum in Cusco consisted of a morning of presentations by Peruvian tourism officials, including archaeologist Ruth Shady, who was instrumental in the discovery and analysis of Caral, a 5,000-year-old Peruvian city that is the oldest settlement in the Americas. Each presenter made it clear that preservation of Peruvian architectural gems like Machu Picchu and other historic sites through sustainable tourism practices is a primary concern.
USTOA president Terry Dale moderated an afternoon session the primary focus of which was how Peru can work more effectively with inbound American operators to increase visitation across the country.
Panelists included Tauck, Heather Rhodes of TravelStyles LLC and Harry Dalgaard of Avanti Destinations. Most comments from the panel involved the encouragement of creating the new infrastructure necessary to open Peru’s tourism potential beyond Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, thus encouraging repeat visits from U.S. travelers who want to become more familiar with the country’s vast geography and culture.