Shortly after the publication of the 100 most beautiful destinations to visit in 2021 by Time magazine, which includes the Salar de Uyuni salt pan in Bolivia, eight luxury domes in this area were subjected to arson.
An extreme and public gesture carried out by the residents of Uyuni, Llica, Tahua and other regions in the south-west of Potosí, who, for decades, have been contending this part of the territory with the neighbouring municipality of Oruro.
The domes, part of a luxurious tourist complex, the Kachi Lodge Hotel, were under the ownership of a bolivian and swiss group of enterpreneurs, the Amazing Escapes Bolivia SRL, a company that has operated in the tourism sector for over 30 years both in Bolivia and abroad. The tourism company stated that, despite its numerous requests of protection by law enforcement, the authorities did not show up.
In a press conference, the governor of Oruro, Johnny Vedia, told that he reported the perpetrators to the Public Ministry for crimes of conspiracy and destruction of private property.
The representative body of the Bolivian Private Tourist Sector (Septur) also condemned the vandalism, expressing concern for the future of the management of the area: “in the current situation of profound crisis that the national tourism sector has undergone due to the pandemic, events like the one in question, irremediably affect the nation's image. We ask the parties involved to establish a dialogue in order to reach a timely and peaceful solution that will allow for an adequate climate of coexistence in compliance with the laws, private property and legal security that should be prevailing in our country”.
The governor of Potosí, Jhonny Mamani, who appeared at the crime scene, commented: “I will submit to the orders of the authorities if any document indicating the limits between the territory of Oruro and of Potosí is found”, denouncing the initiation of a criminal proceeding against the people who authorized the operations of this hotel.
It is difficult to imagine the resolution of this dispute which is, unfortunately, common to many paradisiacal tourist destinations and which could mark the beginning of a serious debate on the issues related to luxury tourism, often promoted to the detriment of indigenous communities.
History is certainly not new to the acts of vandalism and destruction of “inconvenient” works: just in the last decade many statues and as many architectural works belonging to the historical past have been demolished, amidst numerous criticisms and protests.
Opening image: the Kachi Lodge Hotel before the fires. Photo courtesy Expedia