Peru's Marketing Efforts Are Paying Off

The number of U.S. visitors to Peru has tripled in the past 20 years and from 2003 to 2005, the number increased by 53 percent. American tourism figures will keep rising and the average length of stay will continue to get longer if Nicolas Nadramia has anything to do with it. 

Nicolas Nadramia

Travel Agent recently sat down with Nadramia, deputy manager of market research and tourist information for PromPeru, to discuss tourism developments in his country. PromPeru, short for the Commission for the Promotion of Peru, was founded in 1993 to encourage tourism to Peru.

California is the largest U.S. feeder market for Peru visitors, Nadramia says, followed by Florida and New York. The average length of stay is 13 days; and nearly half of all visitors stay in either four- or five-star hotels. About 60 percent are FITs, and culture and nature rank high as interests to clients traveling to Peru on vacation.

Of all the stats Nadramia shared, he says proudly the fact that "Eighty-two percent of visitors said upon their return that they would definitely recommend a trip to Peru," is a testament to a superior tourism product.

Beyond Machu Picchu

Don't be looking for a large photo of Machu Picchu in any of the tourism marketing communications that Nadramia's office produces. "Machu Picchu is already sold; Cuzco is easy to sell," he says. Instead, Peru wants to raise awareness of other sights and experiences in the country, such as the Nasca Lines, the Amazon and various archaelogical sites and cultural experiences. The thought is that when people know about these other sights, they will want to visit them, and therefore stay longer and spend more money.

In the Peruvian desert, about 287 miles from Lima, are ancient forms drawn in the earth by the Nasca people, who lived between 200 and 600 B.C. Only seen in their entirety by air, the Nasca Lines depict people and animals as well as geometric shapes, and cover about 19 square miles.

Caral, an archaeological site that  has seen an increase in tourism

Only discovered in 1994, the Sacred City of Caral is the oldest city in the Americas, built more than 5,000 years ago. Two hours north of Lima, the site is open for tours. In 2005, 21,068 people visited Caral, up from 7,338 in 2003.

Another archaeological site, a fortress called Kuelap in northern Peru, has plans for improvements to its tourism infrastructure. Over the next five years, a cable car that will reduce travel time from three hours to 30 minutes will be built, and roads, signage and accommodations in neighboring cities will be upgraded. Kuelap, which was built by the Chachapoyas in 550 A.D. and covers nearly 15 acres, is surrounded by a 66-foot-high wall and has 45 circular buildings.

The excavation site of recently discovered mummy Senora de Cao will soon be open to the publicA mummy named Senora de Cao has been making a big splash since she was discovered in 2005. A ruler of the Mochica people, a pre-Incan civilization, she ruled 1,700 years ago. In excellent condition, she will be on display in an exhibit that will also include her noble possessions, in 2007 (exact date is TBD). The site where she was found is part of the El Brujo archaeological complex in the town of Magdalena de Cao, 45 minutes from Trujillo.

About Machu Picchu

All that being noted, Machu Picchu is the country's most popular tourist destination. Last year more than 600,000 people visited this UNESCO World Cultural and Heritage Site, which is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are a number of ways people can visit Machu Picchu ("OldMountain" in Quechua, the ancient Incan language).

Machu PicchuCuzco, 43 miles southeast of Machu Picchu, is the jumping off point for many travelers. There are three train options with varying price points. The Backpacker train departs Cuzco at 6:15 a.m. daily for $59.50; the standard tourist Vistadome train leaves Cuzco at 6 a.m. daily and costs $101; and there's Orient Express' new Hiram Bingham luxury train, which departs Poroy (20 minutes from Cuzco) at 9 a.m. daily except Sunday. Included in the $476 fare are meals, wine, entertainment, guides, bus transfers, entrance fee, and afternoon tea at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. Essential Links

To see Machu Picchu at sunrise, | before the crowds come, visitors can stay overnight at said lodge, the only hotel adjacent to the site. There are also lodging options in Agua Calientes, five miles away. Your athletic and adventurous clients may want to consider approaching Machu Picchu via a trek on the Inca Trail. Note that the trail's highest elevation is 13,776 feet, so acclimatization as well as good health is necessary for this option.

Jesus Lopez, director for Fiesta Tours International, an incoming tour operator to Peru since 1976, says he's noticed the changes in numbers of visitors and their lengths of stay and says it's because of PromPeru's efforts. "They've been making a generous campaign to raise consumer awareness of Peru in the U.S.," he says. According to Lopez, in the first year, his business handled about 600 people; now they move 4,000 people a year.

On October 19, his company is launching a web site, www.perutravelplanners.com, which is geared towards travel agents. It will outline a rotating list of their 18-20 wholesaler, tour operator partners, which Lopez says includes USTOA members like Collette Vacations and Sunny Land Tours. Agents will be able to pick from several in their geographic area. "They mainly work with travel agents versus consumers," Lopez notes about these partners, adding, "About 75 to 90 percent of their business comes through travel agents."

The site will also have "very price-attractive product," Lopez says, giving the example of $399 trip that includes Lima and Cuzco (but not airfare or Machu Picchu). As for the difference in his company's two web sites, Lopez says, "www.fiestatoursperu.com shows wholesalers what products we have and www.perutravelplanners.com is oriented to retail travel agents to visit and book a product."

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