Friday, December 21, 2012

Perú: Tour Operator Negligence Being Examined in River Rafting Accident on Vilacanota

As a follow-up to my posting of December 20, and according to the Spanish language newspaper, El Comercio, the body of a missing US citizen, Alycia Berrier, 23, who originally was reported in local media as "Alicia Perrien," has been found after a rafting accident on the Vilcanota River involving a large group of foreign tourists.

Ms. Berrier body was found on Wednesday (December 19), the day after all three rafts overturned on Tuesday afternoon.  Twelve tourists and three guides fell into the river at the time.

The day of the rafting accident (December 18), the body of Canadian tourist Nishant Fozdar Jagdeep, 25, was also found.

COMMENT: In my posting of December 20, I emphasized the importance of foreign travelers to thoroughly screen tour operators before engaging their services. This should also include asking for testimonial letters and references and verifying that they are members in good standing of international tour operators associations. 

It is also not a bad idea to ask local embassies for the names of reputable tour operators. 

Travelers need to be very cognizant that the best practices of tour operators and their focus on safety varies dramatically between those in developed and developing countries.

Ironically, Luciano Diapoli, an Argentine tourist who survived the rafting accident, reported in an article in PERÚ THIS WEEK (a guide for tourists), that “We thought that these people [the operators] were aware of what they were doing, but the situation got out of control.” 

Mr. Diapoli was no doubt referring to the very rough water the rafts were traveling through on the Vilcanota, suggesting that the tour operator may have been more concerned with money than with safety.