After nearly two and a half years of closure due to the pandemic, Easter Island will reopen to tourists on August 4, along with the historical and cultural heritage that has made it a popular tourist destination for years and fully supports its economy. Easter Island (name in the native language Rapa Nui) is a small remote area in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean and is famous in the world above all for its “Moai”: large monolithic statues very recognizable by their characteristics. Whose construction techniques are still unknown today.
It belongs to Chile and its coastline is 3,600 kilometers long. For this reason, it took a long time to reopen compared to the rest of the world: the local health system is very weak, with only one hospital on the island, poor facilities and few places. When a patient’s life was in danger, it took at least 15 hours to get him to the nearest Chilean hospital, so during the epidemic the administration was forced to minimize the risks as much as possible.
During the pandemic, however, the closures led to a collapse of the economy: unemployment on the island was 58 percent, He said The Pies, who interviewed the mayor and other local officials, collected a variety of testimonies about the frustrations of local residents. Rapa Nui is home to 71 percent of its population working in tourism, and the lack of that livelihood has led to two thousand of its 7,700 residents deciding to leave. Before the pandemic, 156,000 tourists arrived annually, with an economic income of around 120 million euros.
An immediate return to those levels is unlikely, and the reopening will have to be gradual, as many of the island’s population have left, creating a severe shortage of workers. Head of Tourism Yuko Tongariki briefed the Duke Pies The island first aims to reinvest the revenue from the reopening into new staff: instead hiring enough staff to reopen all the tourist sites now would bankrupt it.
11 tourist sites will reopen from August 4 to 24, including beaches and archaeological sites, and two flights a week will bring a total of 600 people, a third of those who arrived before the pandemic. Hotels will reopen at 45 percent of total capacity, with approximately 2,500 beds guaranteed.
Mayor Pedro Edmonds (in office since 1994 and in his fifth term) has complained a lot against the Chilean government (a few months at the helm). By President Gabriel Boric), argued that he was largely responsible for the island’s economic problems. In March, Edmonds asked the government for 2.4 million euros a month to repair and clean up the 70 square kilometer Rapa Nui National Park, to upgrade the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Just last week the Ministry of Economy allocated almost 700 thousand euros of funds to small and medium enterprises, but according to Edmonds they are not enough. Many of the island’s businesses are already bankrupt or in debt, and he himself says he doesn’t have enough funds for the national park. In recent months, to combat unemployment, the island’s administration has set up an employment program that has given part-time jobs and fortunes to 800 people who were previously tour guides, cooks or bus drivers. Edmonds said he is very concerned about reopening.
– read more: Easter Island’s big faces have big problems
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