Tramway planned for Machu Picchu’s ‘sister city’

Updated 02 October 2013
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Tramway planned for Machu Picchu’s ‘sister city’

LIMA, Peru: The former mountaintop refuge of Incan royalty has elegant halls and plazas much like those of fabled Macchu Picchu just 50 kilometers away. Yet only a handful of tourists visit the ruins each day, those willing to make a two-day hike to reach its majestic solitude.
That is about to change: The national government has approved what would be Peru’s first aerial tramway. Bridging the deep canyon of the Apurimac River, it is expected to make Choquequirao reachable in just 15 minutes from the nearest highway.
The 3-mile (5-kilometer) long cable car will be designed to whiz 400 people an hour in each direction a half mile (nearly a kilometer) above the river. The president of the Apurimac state government, Elias Segovia, anticipates the $45 million tramway will bring about 3,000 tourists a day after it opens in late 2015.
“This is going to generate tourist services. It will generate great investment” in hotels, restaurants and other amenities, he says.
The idea is to shift some of the tourist burden from Machu Picchu, where authorities have a limit of 2,500 daily visitors and where reservations are now required for people who wish to hike the famed Inca Trail to the ruins.
Currently, most visitors to Choquequirao must fly to Cuzco, the former Inca imperial capital, then drive four hours on mountain roads. Then it’s another 12 to 16 hours on foot.
It’s little wonder Choquequirao (CHO-kay-keer-ow) gets only about five visitors a day.
“When we went there it was the two of us and the two rangers,” said Jeff Widman, a 27-year-old Internet entrepreneur from Menlo Park, California, who trekked there with his wife, and continued on to Machu Picchu.
Choquequirao, which means “cradle of gold” in Quechua, is believed to be the last refuge of Incan rulers who fled Cuzco after its leader Manco Inca was defeated by Spanish conquistadors. It is draped over the fold of a lesser mountain in the shadow of Salcantay peak, surrounded at 9,950 feet (3030 meters) by steep precipices. Its buildings and irrigation canals meticulously hewn into rock are as well-preserved as those of Machu Picchu, its “top-of-the-world” views equally spectacular.
Only about 30 percent of Choquequirao has been cleared for tourism. The rest, for now, remains covered in vegetation.
David Ugarte, regional director of culture in Cuzco, predicts the tramway will open up to broader tourism not just Choquequirao but also other archaeological sites in the region. It is the first of 24 that President Ollanta Humala envisions building in each of Peru’s states to boost tourism.
Not everyone is happy about it.
Arturo Almiron, of the travel agency Tours a Cuzco, believes it will put off the kind of tourist who wants to be thrown back spiritually to the epoch when the city was the Inca capital.
He fears visitors to Choquequirao will be robbed of the possibility of watching condors soar in the quiet stillness of untrammeled hills.
“Cuzco’s very character is in the preservation of its historical center and archaeological sites,” he said. “If we build a tramway, that preservation is altered. A touch of modernity is added that isn’t very attractive. Authenticity is lost.”
Mandy Kalitsis of Toronto, operations manager for the Cuzco-based Apus-Peru tour company, acknowledged that Choquequirao “will lose some of its charm.”
“But as long as the government manages (the tramway) properly, I think it can bring some good into the area,” said Kalitsis, whose company organizes treks to Choquequirao.
Peru’s Housing Ministry and Apurimac’s regional government are about to begin taking bids for construction. Companies from Switzerland and Andorra have already expressed interest.
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Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.


Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

Saudi Arabia plans to create 1.2 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2030. (AN photo/Mo Gannon)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

  • Vision 2030 has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry
  • We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed: tour operator

DUBAI: From diving in the Red Sea to sand-skating in the desert, from Jazan’s Fifa Mountains to the archaeological wonders of Al-Ula, it has been impossible not to be wowed by all that Saudi Arabia has to offer on the opening day of this year’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. Travel posters of its varied regions blanketed almost every pillar in the concourse, through which thousands of visitors passed on their way into the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, part of a colorful Saudi tourism campaign. 

And if you somehow missed that on your way into the exhibition halls, then you couldn’t have missed the Saudi pavilion, featuring 60 travel-related agencies under the umbrella of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

“We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed,” said Abeer Al-Rashed, project co-ordinator for Al Sarh Travel and Tourism, which organizes tours and helps with visa arrangements. “It’s not just a desert in Saudi Arabia. We have a lot of activities.”

The expanded role of tourism under Vision 2030, which has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry, is top of mind for those with a foothold already in the region.

“We are thrilled at this accelerated pace of growth in Saudi Arabia and want to make sure that we’re aligned with that,” said Simon Casson, president of hotel operations for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Its Riyadh hotel, Four Seasons’ first in the Gulf when it opened in 2002, is now offering a tour of the Tuwaiq escarpment, otherwise known as the Edge of the World. 

Four Seasons’ plans for a hotel in Makkah, announced in the fall, are in the design phase, with construction expected to begin next year. “The site of the hotel is really the last remaining piece of land that’s ringside, if you like, and has a direct view facing onto the Kaaba, so that will partner very well with our Riyadh hotel,” Casson said.

As for more hotels? “I would say stay-tuned because we’re actively working on other opportunities within Saudi Arabia — not things we can announce at this time but we see a tremendous amount of opportunity as we look forward.”

Omer Kaddouri, Rotana’s president and CEO, also sees tremendous potential. It’s operating four hotels in the Kingdom right now and will have three more by the end of the year. 

“They’re building more reasons to travel there,” Kaddouri said, speaking of the recent changes. “I’d like to say that by the time they’ve reached their 2030 vision, Rotana will have no less than 20 operating hotels in the Kingdom, with more in the pipeline.”

As for the long-awaited Nobu Hotel in Riyadh, Khaled Al-Ashqar, director of sales and marketing, said it’s “very close” to opening. The boutique hotel, with a restaurant by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, will also have a tea lounge and a live cooking station in the Royal Suite. “I’m 100 percent sure it will be the spot of the city,” Al-Ashqar said.