GIS Helps Monitor, Balance Out Visitor Movements at Peruvian Archaeological Site

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Archaeological sites are popular tourist destinations. But large numbers of visitors often present unique management and conservation challenges. High volumes of tourists can create congestion, which can harm the visitor experience. Archaeological sites are also vulnerable to erosion and damage caused by large numbers of people.

Machu Picchu in Peru attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

(Machu Picchu in Peru attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.)

In 2015, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture wanted to conduct a study to see how many visitors could safely visit Machu Picchu at one time without damaging the sanctuary or diminishing the tourist experience. Cultural Site Research and Management (CSRM), the organization tasked with carrying out the study, used a combination of infrared sensors, visitor observation, 3D modeling, network analysis, and mobile and web-based GIS to assess and improve movement around one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world.

Researchers used ArcGIS Network Analyst to record tourists’ typical visit times along paths and in significant locations at Machu Picchu, making it possible to explore alternative routes.

The research team produced a raster heat map that shows congestion around Machu Picchu at different times based on actual numbers of visitors.
(The research team produced a raster heat map that shows congestion around Machu Picchu at different times based on actual numbers of visitors.)

While these approaches were valuable, they did not directly reveal information about congestion, which is a much more experiential phenomenon. Thus, the team employed a third technique: using Collector for ArcGIS to record real-time congestion data.

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