Peru plays up its potential at Travel Mart conference By Mark Chesnut / June 02, 2008 Share 1 -- The number of foreign visitors to Peru grew by some 14.1% in 2007 compared with the year before, and this year will bring similar growth. That's the word from Daniel Ratti, the president of Canatur, Peru's national tourism board.Speaking at the 15th annual Peru Travel Mart, the annual tourism conference that kicked off in Lima last month, Ratti said that 97 of the 100 foreign buyers invited to participate in this year's event did not currently sell Peru, but their presence would help the destination attract new markets.During the event, Ratti handed over the reins of Canatur to Eduardo Arrarte Fiedler, the former vice minister of tourism. Among Arrarte's stated goals are to make Peru a global leader in international events and conventions as well as to promote increased investment in a greater variety of regions.Arrarte wasn't the only one at the convention talking about Peru's potential as a tourist destination. Peru is in an ideal position to further expand its tourism base, according to Manuel Izaguirre Sotomayor, director of the Observatorio Turistico del Peru, a tourism-focused organization at the University of San Martin de Porres in Lima."Peru has the fastest growth and lowest inflation in Latin America," Sotomayor said. In addition, Peru now has an even greater profile on the world tourism front, since Machu Picchu was named one of the new seven world wonders last year.Tourism officials and private investors should take note of several new travel trends in order to fully capitalize on the nation's potential, Sotomayor added. These include an increase in the number of travelers over age 60, travelers with disabilities and young travelers. In addition, the demand for customized travel products and tours in Peru has outpaced the growth of prepackaged tours. "These trends will greatly influence future travel," he said.Inn the newsAs international visitor numbers continue to rise in Peru, so does the hotel room count, especially in Lima, Cuzco and the Valle Sagrado, the region where Machu Picchu is located. Among the latest news:• Las Casitas del Colca: Orient Express' Las Casitas del Colca opened in April on a 60-acre estate in Colca Canyon, 100 miles north of Arequipa. The 20-room lodge has a spa and can arrange for guests to do volunteer work with the nearby Mission of Sister Antonia. Call (800) 237-1236 or visit www.lascasitasdelcolca.com.• Inkaterra: The company has announced a series of developments, including upgrades and new properties. This year, Inkaterra opened two new boutique hotels: Inkaterra La Casona, in the city of Cuzco, and Inkaterra Titilaka, on Lake Titicaca.In addition, Reserva Amazonica, on the banks of the Madre de Dios River, has introduced Tambopata Suites, each of which has a private plunge pool and terrace, plus a screened lounge area. The property has also constructed a 650-foot wooden bridge, dubbed Anaconda Walk, which allows guests to more comfortably view the flora and fauna of the nearby swamps. Call (800) 442-5042 or visit www.inkaterra.com.• The Doubletree El Pardo: This Lima hotel has added 41 rooms and is in the process of renovating its existing 110 units; work is to be completed by the end of this year. The addition includes a VIP Lounge with complimentary cocktails, drinks and snacks. Call (800) 222-8733 (222-TREE) or visit www.doubletree.com.• The Sumaq Hotel: The Sumaq opened this year in Machu Picchu Pueblo, the town also known as Aguas Calientes, where trains bring travelers to the famed Native American ruins. The hotel features a spa, restaurant and bar and is geographically the closest hotel to the ruins (excluding the Orient-Express property, which sits inside the historical sanctuary). Call (866) 682-0645 or visit www.sumaqhotelperu.com.• LAN Peru: National carrier LAN Peru is adding three weekly flights linking Lima with Miami, beginning June 17, to complement its existing seven weekly frequencies. The flights, which operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, depart Miami at 5:15 p.m. Northbound flights depart Lima at 12:20 a.m.• Aqua Expeditions: One of the newest and hippest ways to enjoy Peru's Amazon region is aboard the M/V Aqua, a brand-new, 12-suite ship that departs from the waters near the city of Iquitos, in northeastern Peru. The ship, which celebrated its first official departure in March, features air-conditioned suites that measure between 230 and 240 square feet, with a stylish, modernist ambience created by Peruvian interior designer Jordi Puig.Itineraries range from three to seven nights; rates start at $1,950 per person. Call (866) 603-3687 or visit www.aquaexpeditions.com.For general information about Peru, visit www.peru.info.Sonesta rolling out upgrades at six propertiesThe Sonesta Collection, the U.S.-based hotel, cruise and resort brand that operates six properties in Peru, is spending more than $4 million on a wide-ranging array of renovations and upgrades at all its Peruvian properties. All hotels remain open during renovations.Among the improvements are new bedding, new decor and improved amenities. The first to be completed, the Sonesta el Olivar, now sports a refreshed look in its lobby, bar and restaurant as well as original artwork and attractive decor in its guestrooms, many of which overlook the lovely El Olivar Park in Lima's upscale San Isidro district.Additional renovations are to be completed in July at the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Miraflores, located in Lima's chic Miraflores district; by August at the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Lake Titicaca; and by December at the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Arequipa, located in Peru's second-largest city.The Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley -- Yucay, set within an attractively restored former monastery near Macchu Pichu, is undergoing the most extensive upgrade, adding a new, larger spa with more treatment rooms; the work will be complete in 2009.Among the offers available at Sonesta's Peru properties is the Wedding Night in Arequipa package, available at the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Arequipa. Priced at $89 for one night, the deal includes welcome drink, a bottle of champagne, seasonal fruits, snacks, a flower arrangement and breakfast buffet for two. The 84-room Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley -- Yucay is offering a variety of destination wedding packages, which can include use of a chapel, a choral performance (in the indigenous Quechua language) and a traditional folkloric dance performance. Prices vary based on what is included.Call (800) 766-3782 (800-SONESTA) or visit www.sonesta.com. -- M.C.