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The Valley of Viñales has a landscape of mountains and mogotes unique in the world. (Marius Jovaiša)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 5 February 2018 — The Valley of Viñales, whose unique landscape has made it a highly attractive place for tourism, faces the potential risk of an uncontrolled exploitation as well as illegalities in the provision of services for tourists, which has required the authorities to adopt measures for its protection, according to the local press.

Viñales, where traditional methods of agriculture, highly valued vernacular architecture and traditional artisanal crafts and music ​​are preserved, was declared a National Monument in 1978, a Protected Area in 1998, a UNESCO World Heritage Center in 1999, and a National Park in 2001.

All these attributes, and in particular its stunning natural setting, have stimulated a growth in foreign tourism to the town of Viñales, which in 2016 received more than 700,000 visitors, followed by some 600,000 in 2017, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

To welcome the burgeoning boom of travelers, this valley in Pinar del Rio province currently has 2,300 rooms for rent and more than 130 restaurants that employ about 5,000 private workers, according to data provided by the president of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power from the area, José Antonio Valle.

He explained that the interest stirred by the tourist destination caused people from other regions to start creating food services and lodging for tourists.

In this sense, the director of the Technical Office of Monuments of the Provincial Center of Cultural Heritage, Nidia Cabrera, said that the growth of the town “has been more in housing than in demographics, because there are many campaigns that encourage visitors to visit Viñales,” and in her opinion this growth “has exceeded all capabilities,” to host it.

“The number of people we see [working here] are not all residents, but personal attracted by the trade, since the destination is a source of employment. There are those who work in construction, who are hired to serve, wash and clean,” the official said.

In the opinion of these authorities, tourism itself is not as much a risk for Viñales as are the illegalities linked to services, in “precipitous” expansion, in order to respond to the growing demands of visitors.

The proliferation of buildings has led to violations of urban planning rules, including heights and extensions of oversized housing, landscaped areas paved over for patios, and remodeling carried out with forms and materials inconsistent with the area’s existing patterns of development.

Among the measures proposed to stop the illegalities and preserve the heritage site are the restoration of planted areas, the use of an approved color palette, the replanting of trees along the main streets, the homogeneous painting of buildings and the use of approved lighting.

“Viñales must preserve the identity values ​​that have given it that importance at the universal level, especially with regards to the care of the landscape,” said the president of the Provincial Commission of Monuments, Juan Carlos Rodríguez.

This month a group of specialists from the Physical Planning Institute and the National Heritage Council will carry out a survey “meter by meter” of the anomalies, with the collaboration of local people, to dictate the pertinent measures, reports the local press.

Also mentioned among the violations associated with the tourist activities is the uncontrolled exploitation of the footpaths intended for hikers that are  now being used for horseback riding. For this reason it was decided to control the activity of renting horses.

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