Aviation

International airport to be built “right on top” of world-famous tourist attraction

Work on a multi-billion dollar international airport near Machu Picchu is reportedly underway, with predictions the development could bring tourists closer than ever to the ancient Incan city.

It’s a landmark attraction that regularly tops travellers’ must-see lists, and with this news, it looks like even more visitors are set to walk the coveted steps of the ancient Inca ruins.

With construction underway on a multi-billion dollar international airport in Chinchero, a gateway town to the Sacred Valley of Peru, tourists will have access to direct flights to the doorstep of Machu Picchu.

The move has reportedly been met with a mixture of “horror and outrage” from locals, Peruvian archaeologists and historians, who have voiced their concerns of overtourism to Machu Picchu and the “potentially incalculable” damage to the ruins from low-flying planes.

“It seems ironic and in a way contradictory that here, just 20 minutes from the Sacred Valley, the nucleus of the Inca culture, they want to build an airport – right on top of exactly what the tourists have come here to see,” Cusco-based anthropologist Pablo Del Valle told The Guardian.

“This is a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the Incas,” Natalia Majluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University who has organised a petition against the new airport, told The Guardian.

“Putting an airport here would destroy it.”

At present, Machu Picchu reportedly hosts foot-traffic well above Unesco’s recommended limits, with more than 1.5 million visitors to the famed citadel in 2017.

Two years earlier, Travel Weekly reported Machu Picchu received as many as one million visitors in 2015.

With The Guardian reporting last week that construction of an airport in the Inca town of Chinchero had begun, which would allow direct flights from major cities across the Americas, this figure will most certainly increase.

The government is vowing to push ahead to finish the airport by 2023, with international construction companies queuing up to bid on the development.

“This airport will be built as soon as possible because it’s very necessary for the city of Cusco,” Peru’s finance minister Carlos Oliva told The Guardian.

“There’s a series of technical studies which support this airport’s construction.”

Visitors to the valley at present come through Cusco airport, which is reportedly limited to taking narrow-bodied aircraft on stopover flights from Peru’s capital, Lima, and nearby cities such as La Paz, Bolivia.

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