Peru seeks to boost exports and tourism

01 February 2021
Peruvian participation at Expo 2020 Dubai will highlight the nation’s rich culture

Peru is home to extraordinary landscapes, ranging from the rugged mountainous terrain of the Andes to the lush rainforests of the Amazon and the arid coastal beaches along the country’s Pacific coast. 

Thanks to these diverse ecosystems, which have lent Peru an abundance of flora and fauna, the country’s name is derived from a word in Quechua, the Inca language, that translates to ‘land of abundance’. 

With a history of inhabitation that goes back almost 20,000 years, Peru has been home to ancient civilisations including the Paracas, Nazca, Huari, and perhaps the most well-known, the Incas. Known for their highly developed economic system, as well as their art and architecture, the Incas were South America’s largest and most powerful empire for more than four centuries. 

The Inca Empire ultimately fell to Spanish conquistadors, but while the civilisation may be long gone, its traditions – and those of many others – live on in the people and culture of Peru.

Inca influence

The history of the Inca civilisation highlights its forward thinking in areas such as governance and self-rule...

The history of the Inca civilisation highlights its forward thinking in areas such as governance and self-rule. Hailing from the Peruvian highlands, the Inca people, understanding that slightly different elevations could yield better crops, developed aqueducts and terraced farming. They stored supplies and freeze-dried food for times of drought. The Incas also mined gold and silver and weaved colourful cloths. They were artists and musicians, as well as astute mathematicians. They invented a tool for account keeping called a ‘quipu’, which used coloured strings and knots. The quipu was also used to record historical events.  The Incas built a vast network of roads throughout their empire. Many short rock tunnels and vine-supported suspension bridges were constructed. Use of the system was strictly limited to government and military business. Ultimately, the comprehensive network facilitated the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in the 16th century.

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Today, Peruvian gastronomy, textiles and artwork are renowned around the world, and the country boasts 12 Unesco World Heritage sites, including Machu Picchu.

At its national pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai site, under the banner ‘Timeless, Always Peru’, the South American nation aims to present its history, culture and traditions to an international audience.

“We are trying to convey Peru from all possible angles,” says Alvaro Silva-Santisteban, director of the Trade, Tourism & Investment Office of Peru in the UAE and deputy commissioner general of Peru for Expo 2020.

This involves highlighting “the Nazca lines; the Amazon, which covers more than 60 per cent of our territory; vibrant cities such as Lima; as well as our festivities, gastronomy, innovation and ancient history”, he says.

Peru’s pavilion has been designed by Habitare Architecture & Engineering, which won a national design competition to work on the project.

“Our vision for this pavilion was to think ‘within the box’, versus the current norm of thinking outside the box,” says Silva-Santisteban.

“We wanted to highlight things that make us stand out and that make Peru what Peru is.” 

The design features elements of the country’s ancient architectural history and references to rituals celebrated in the Inca Empire.

Traditional features

The pavilion features a replica of the Q’eswachaka bridge, the last remaining suspension bridge from the reign of
the Incas. Demonstrating the Incas’ engineering innovation, suspension bridges were an integral part of the empire’s road system, allowing people to safely cross steep canyons and gorges in the rocky terrain of the Andes. 

The location of the 118-foot-long Q’eswachaka bridge has remained unchanged since the Incas first built it over the Apurimac River, nearly 60 feet above the water’s surface.

Woven from grass that was twisted together to form ropes, the 500-year tradition of construction is maintained by members of four Quechua communities: Huinchiri, Chaupibanda, Choccayhua and Ccollana Quehue. The communities rebuild the bridge every year. 

The structure of the 1,860 square- metre pavilion features curved lines, intended to evoke an infinite path and symbolising how Peru’s identity has always been, and will continue to be, influenced by the various cultures to which the country is home. 

The structure’s walls are also intended to be reminiscent of the pre-Inca ruins of Kuelap, a mountaintop fortress. Weavings will hang from the pavilion’s walls, illustrating traditional skills.

“Our concept transcends time. It is not deflected by ... events because it is so deeply a part of our culture,” says Silva-Santisteban, when asked whether the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the pavilion’s design. 

He adds that there will be a greater focus on digital experiences within the exhibition space, and that improving the flexibility of the supply chain will be a priority, to minimise disruption.

The agency of Peru’s Foreign Trade & Tourism Ministry that is responsible for managing and promoting Peru’s participation at the expo is Promperu. 

The consultant for the pavilion is LC&Partners Project Management & Engineering, and the main contractors are QA Construction Contracting and Pico International.

For Promperu, Expo 2020 offers an opportunity to attract tourism, boost exports and generate investment. According to Silva-Santisteban, showcasing Peruvian products at the event will increase demand.

The UAE is the 12th most important market for Peruvian exports worldwide. Total exports to the UAE have increased over 550 folds from $6m in 2011 to an accumulated growth of over $3.3bn by the end of 2020.

“In the past decade, Peru has become one of the top three most important trading and investment partners of the UAE within Latin America,” says Silva-Santisteban. 

“After the experience gained in 2020, it is clear that there is a strong need to expand your sources for products and to reinforce your supply chain, which is a point we will make in our participation,” he adds.

Expo 2020 will not only help Peru to increase its business within the UAE, but will also grow its reach within the wider region, Silva-Santisteban says.

“Peru is among the top five world exporters of asparagus, mango, avocado, quinoa, chia, berries – products that are an indispensable part of modern lifestyle. But we are not necessarily present in all markets. This is something that the expo can help us to change in segments such as food and beverage, textiles, construction materials and so on.”

Jobs in tourism

Tourism is also important to Peru’s economy, employing hundreds of thousands of people, both directly and indirectly. 

“We have to be cautious and realistic about the state of travel and tourism in the coming months,” says Silva-Santisteban. “It would not be responsible to create a picture that is [unrealistic], but that does not mean we cannot [aim to attract tourists].” 

He notes that Peru is home to “one of the new seven wonders of the world”, and adds: “We are unique ... and will always continue to be so.”

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