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Machu Picchu Raises Admission Fees

March 11, 2001|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA and NATALIA TARNAWIECKI | Special to the Times

LIMA, Peru — Worried that the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, one of South America's top tourist attractions, is being overwhelmed by its own popularity, the Peruvian government has doubled the fee to enter the ruins.

The increase that went into effect this month doubled the admission from $10 to $20 per person. It was part of an effort to shield the ruins, whose mountain site is surrounded by a nature reserve, from damage blamed on the onslaught of visitors arriving by train, helicopter and foot.

Despite Peru's recent political turmoil, tourism has risen steadily. Machu Picchu withstands up to 2,500 tourists a day and could get 2.5 million a year by 2005, by some estimates.

"This increase will better enable us to manage tourism and regulate the visits," said Jose Andreu, a spokesman for Peru's National Institute of Culture. Most of the fees are used for conservation, but 20% of the additional revenues will go to cultural activities in the village at the base of the mountain, Andreu said.

The battle between commerce and conservation has heated up in recent years as the government has sought to increase tourism in this impoverished but culturally rich Andean nation. A plan to build a cable car to speed access to the ruins has been fought by conservationists and by bus drivers who ferry visitors up a precarious road full of curves and switchbacks. Fears that the sacred sanctuary would decay into a battered and commercialized "Mc-Picchu" worsened last September when a crane being used to film a beer ad in the ruins collapsed, snapping off a corner of the Intiwatana, an Inca monument to the sun.

Conservationists are also worried about wear on the Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu, a favorite with hikers who hire guides to accompany them. The government tripled the fee for hikers to $50 in January and cracked down on unauthorized guides.

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