Santiago, Aug 1 (EFE).- Easter Island, about 2,000 kilometers from the coast of Chile, reopened its borders on Monday to welcome back all tourists after a pandemic lockdown of two years.
It is one of those mysterious destinations that tourists and travelers wish to visit someday, a dream that had become impossible since the first Covid-19 case was detected in March 2020 and the Chilean health ministry declared a complete lockdown on the island.
But after reopening, the island of a population of 8,000, aims to recover its damaged economy that forced many of its residents to flee.
“Eighteen percent of the population lives off public salaries and the other 82% depends on tourism: restaurants, boutiques, tour operators, hotels… everything,” Easter Island’s mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa tells Efe, adding that the opening is late and that the recovery will be difficult and slow.
The long-awaited reopening was planned for February 1 but the omicron variant, which hardly impacted the continent, led the government to extend the closure.
Not only did the lockdown affect the island’s economic activities, but also the welfare of the 6,000 inhabitants who chose to stay despite the fact that commercial planes and ships did not make it to the island regularly.
“We operate with ancestral concepts of self-sustainability. Whoever has, shares. This culture practices these concepts for millennia,” Paoa adds, warning the 1,500 tourists expected to arrive in August will not be able to enjoy the island in all its splendor due to the effects of the pandemic.
The Chilean government has authorized two weekly flights in August, which will be extended to three in September, in which the local authorities hope to be able to open all tourist attractions.
Paoa hopes that the nearly 4,000 visitors expected to make it to Easter Island in just two months will activate a totally paralyzed economy.
Many businesses and hotels will not be able to open “because they cannot afford to pay for electricity and they will have to wait a while to capitalize,” according to the mayor, who points out that only 13 of the 24 attractions can be visited.
Among them are Anakena beach and Ahu Akivi, the sacred site that has seven statues.
Easter Island was included in Time magazine’s world’s 50 greatest places of 2022 for its resilient culture, and for how it managed to survive the pandemic-induced paralysis. EFE