On March 17, the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf) announced the closure until further notice of Torres del Paine national park and Cueva del Milodón due to the health emergency of the coronavirus. After nearly eight months of publication, this Wednesday Magellan Region Mayor Jennifer Rojas announced that from November 26, the doors will reopen for tourists who want to visit the Eighth Wonder of the world.
The area has been in phase 3 of Preparing the Step-by-Step Plan since July 19. According to data from the Ministry of Health, there is currently only one active case of coronavirus in the locality.
With regard to Puerto Natales, the mayor stated that she has «a level of contagion that is insufficient to think about opening, however, we are taking all actions to reduce that figure as soon as possible. Epidemiologically we always wait two weeks. Let us hope and entrust that we all make our efforts in the next two weeks to think about an opening of the commune.»
This announcement is good news for the tourism sector, which has been strongly hit by restrictive measures taken in the wake of the pandemic in one of the most touristic communes in the country. In this line, one of the purposes of reopening is to activate the economy in the Province of Last Hope.
Roberto Cárdenas, mayor of the commune, said this is good news for the sector, as tourism in the area had already been hit since the social outburst. «It’s a tremendous sign for the country and so on for the economy. This measure goes hand in hand with the Government protocol that states that foreigners can come to the country. Today it would be operating only for people living in communes that are in the Preparation Step, but then also for tourists who comply with all health measures.»
In addition, he added that «everything was ready to start reactivating since September, so the protocols are already ready and visas by the Seremi of Regional Health, therefore everything is very prepared to receive tourists, to give peace of mind to them, but also to tourism workers and the inhabitants of the communes of Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales».
Ximena Castro, regional director of Sernatur, emphasized, that «it involves not only the opening within the Park, but of the commune and the entire value chain associated with tourism, which will be the spearhead for the reactivation of employment and associated services, where carriers, guides, receptionists, maids, garzones, travel agencies, services related to logistics and operations , agriculture and all those who are part of this sector, will be able to recover their activity and will be the engine of the return of Tourism to our Region».
For phase one opening is considered the mountain circuit «W» only, one of the most popular by tourists, in addition to contemplating the entire vehicular route. Subsequently, in the second phase, the Paine «O» circuit, which is eight days of walking, will be added. Also, according to the Government’s Step-by-Step Plan, the number of visitors in group activities should not be more than 25 people. This is because the commune is still maintained in Phase 3, which limits the capacity of people in open spaces.
Mayor Rojas emphasized that many of the people working in the park live in Puerto Natales, so they will be able to access a single collective permit with their ID card to move in case their functions are essential. In addition, he emphasized that although not all workers will be able to return, if there will be a revival in the sector. «In a normal season two thousand people work in Torres del Paine, now we will do it with fewer staff, but it will revive jobs in Puerto Natales,» he said.
The economics, development and tourism service, Natalia Easton, emphasized that, «annually the Park attracts more than 300,000 visitors from Chile and the whole world, we also begin the long-awaited revival of this important industry in Magellan. A sector that has been hit hard by this pandemic, which in the region accounts for 10% of GDP and up to 14% of employment, with more than 2,700 companies bringing one of our major economic activities to life.»
This Thursday, in addition, the decree was published inging that from November 23rd foreigners will be allowed to enter the country. That’s the way it is. as Arturo Merino Benítez airport will be enabled for the transit of people from other countries on national territory, following the amendment of the decree regulating the entry and egress of foreigners into the country due to the health emergency.