Decked out in helmet, belt, gold-plated armor and sandals, Juan Pablo Huanacchini Mamani gazes out vacantly from the Ollantaytambo Inca ruins in Peru. His Inca warrior costume sparkles in the sunlight, but the 48-year-old feels no joy. Huanacchini has worked in the tourism industry at this gateway town to Machu Picchu, the Inca citadel that is the jewel of Peruvian tourism — since he was a child. But the Ollantaytambo site that normally welcomes 4,000 visitors a day is deserted. Peru’s vital tourism industry has been decimated by weeks of social unrest that has left 48 people dead in clashes between protesters and security forces since December 7. Peru attracted 4.5 million tourists a year before the Covid-19 pandemic. The sector was supposed to rebound in 2022 and 2023, but Peru’s latest political crisis has left those working in tourism dismayed. “Look, there’s no one. It’s empty,” moaned Huanacchini. Situated around 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Cusco — the old Inca capital that acts as a hub for those visiting Machu Picchu — Ollantaytambo has its own ruins of an Inca citadel that are worth visiting, if not as spectacular as those at Machu Picchu. But protesters allow it to open only at weekends, when barely 100 tourists visit. Roadblocks, airport closures and the suspension of the train service that serves Machu Picchu have left tourists wary of visiting the area for fear of getting stranded. Peru’s southern Andean regions that are home to large populations of poor Indigenous people have borne the brunt of the unrest. Peru has been in crisis since then-president Pedro Castillo — who has Indigenous roots — attempted to dissolve congress and rule by decree. He was subsequently impeached, arrested and charged with rebellion. Protesters are demanding the resignation of his successor Dina Boluarte, immediate elections, a new constitution and the dissolution of the legislature. But their stamina is having a knock-on effect. “We’re very sad. We live off tourism, if there’s no tourism….” said Huanacchini. “We live day to day. Sometimes I earn 100 soles (26 cents). How am I going to earn anything if there is no one? This is a terrible crisis.” According to the tourism ministry, the unrest is costing the country 25 million soles a day with hotel occupancy down 83 percent. Cusco’s regional tourism director Abel Alberto Matto Leiva says 75 percent of Cusco’s one million population “works directly or indirectly in tourism. 9,000 guides, 5,000 (trekking) porters, 2,500 travel agents and a whole chain” comprising hotels, restaurants, taxis. Some 20,000 people are unemployed but that figure is expected to grow six-fold in March. In Cusco, many hotels and restaurants have closed to save costs.