Natural Disasters: The Best Way to Send Help

Floods in Machu Picchu, earthquakes in Chile – want to know the best way help out… don’t change your travel plans.

Beyond the eye of environmental wreckage, these natural disasters can wreak havoc on regional and even national economies as tourism often plays a critical role in sustaining economic development. Just the other day, speaking with one of Detour’s partners in Cusco, we were told that Cusco is as quiet as they have ever seen it. With all the local businesses in Cusco that rely on the steady-flow of visitors Machu Picchu brings, the floods and temporary shut-down of Machu Picchu have seriously stunted the economic viability of the Cusco region.

A recent article in the Peruvian Times paints a stark picture of just how destructive these floods have been for Peru’s national economy. Damages from the flood are estimated to cost 800 million to 1 billion soles (about $280 million – $340 million) to repair. On top of this, the country’s tourism industry is losing a million dollars a day due to travel cancellations. Being that “tourism is one of Peru’s largest sources of revenue and Machu Picchu its main attraction”, the country has invested everything it can to speed the recovery process and re-open Machu Picchu.

And in Chile, the international exposure of the quake, which naturally zoomed in on the worst effected areas – mainly that of Concepcion and the Bio Bio Region about 320 miles south of Santiago – can be confusing to those on the outside. How much of Chile is still accessible?

Chile’s main tourist attractions are by and large intact. In fact, some of our own clients arrived in Chile yesterday for a Patagonia trek. Aside from some delays at the Santiago Airport and a few areas in Chile’s wine country, travelers shouldn’t expect to experience many setbacks. Yet, in browsing the internet I found a blog on a wine touring site expressing concern about the impact this disaster will have on the wine tourism industry for 2010. And, as in Peru, they acknowledged the importance of tourism in their country

Tourism over the last few years has been a great way for normal Chileans to make a living, so i would encourage people to come and enjoy great people, food and wine, while supporting Chile’s fastest growing industry.

Greg, the owner and founder of Detour, recently recalled his time as a river guide in Chile, remarking that him and his fellow guides were treated like royalty, stating that were they back in the states they wouldn’t even have been able to get into some of the places they stayed. So while, we may not value a lot of the tourism jobs offered in the U.S. this is very different in other countries where tourism plays a more substantial role. A good guide can make as much as, say, a doctor in the country would. And don’t quote me on that, but you get the point. They do very well for themselves.

For this reason, calamities like the floods of Machu Picchu and the tourist dry spells they create can impact the livelihoods of the local people longer than the initial blow of the disaster. So in all honest, continuing to travel after a disaster strikes, is one of the best ways to put your dollar to work.

Click here for great alternatives to Machu Picchu.