Peru's tourism sector hurt by protests amid mass cancellations

Demonstrators resume protests over the ousting of former President Pedro Castillo, in Arequipa
Soldiers remove a fence placed by demonstrators to block a road during a protest calling for the resignation of Peru's President Dina Boluarte following the ousting and arrest of former President Pedro Castillo, in Arequipa, Peru, January 4, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

LIMA, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Weeks of deadly protests in Peru after the ouster and detention of President Pedro Castillo have taken a toll on the country's economy, particularly its tourism sector, a minister and industry representatives said.

Up to 60% of travel bookings for the first half of the year have been canceled since the protests began, Peru's minister of foreign trade and tourism said. More than two dozen people have died due to clashes and accidents linked to roadblocks.

"We had really expected tourism to take off this year," Minister Luis Fernando Helguero said in an interview on local television station Canal N late on Wednesday. "The worst part are the cancellations in the first half of the year, some 50% to 60%.

The deadly protests ramped up again on Wednesday after a two-week break over the holidays, and began in the turmoil following the Dec. 7 ouster of Castillo, who tried to illegally dissolve Congress and was later detained.

Demonstrators have demanded the resignation of the new president, Dina Boluarte, the closure of Congress, a constitutional reform and the release of Castillo.

Early on Thursday, protesters blocked a section of Peru's main coastal highway, forcing dozens of cargo trailers to park along the shoulder, local television showed.

Meanwhile the train service that runs to Machu Picchu, the country's most-visited tourist spot, was suspended ahead of fresh protests, with the tourism ministry saying it had evacuated 2,062 tourists from the area on Tuesday.

Helguero said the government, in coordination with tour operators, will work to restore tourist interest.

"Some (tourists) are waiting, others unfortunately may have already chosen other destinations," he added.

Peru expected around 3.5 million tourists this year, according to the most recent estimate from the Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Associates (AHORA PERU).

Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Paul Simao

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