Chapter canyons fuel fueling tourist expectations

Nearly three months after a rocky wall broke and hit four motorboats, killing ten and injuring others, the canyons of Lake Furnas in Capitol (MG) were reopened for tourists.

The partial release of the nautical visits took place on the 30th, with the approval of the mayor’s office. In addition to establishing new rules, such as requiring drivers to keep ships at a minimum distance from the sea wall and to comply with the limits set for each section of the route, the municipality – about 282 kilometers from Belo Horizonte – has hired a team of geologists to assess, on a daily basis, the stability of stone blocks.

According to Lucas Arantes Barros, municipal secretary for sustainable economic development, the flow of tourists last weekend, the first since the reopening, was reduced by an average of about 80 groups of visitors / day – as this check was not made before the accident. , on January 8, no comparisons can be made. However, the influx of people is expected to gradually increase in the coming weeks, mainly due to the long Easter and Tiradentes holidays.

“It is necessary to take into account the fact that many factors influence tourism, such as the economic situation, the price of fuel, the season of the year … After so long, the movement was good for a first weekend. Especially since it was the end of the month, “said Barros Brazilian Agency.

Vitor Vasconcelos, a member of the board of the Association of Tourism Entrepreneurs Capitólio (Ascatur), says that the safety measures taken following the accident were well received by visitors and those working with tourism.

“One thing we were concerned about was how the new safety standards would be received. It turned out that everyone received them very well. Visitors not only follow all the rules, but still enjoy the walks “, commented Vasconcelos. According to him, the influx of tourists has been gradually increasing since February, due to various other tourist attractions in the region.

“People who spend a week in Capitol are unlikely to know more than half of our tourist attractions,” Vasconcelos said.

In fact, the city, which is part of the Nascente das Gerais Tourist Circuit, has much more to offer than water excursions along the so-called “Mar de Minas”, as the 1,440 km² of the Furnas dam lake are usually called. – which, in turn, is not limited to the area of ​​the canyons, where five points with the highest risk of falling rocks have been identified.

“Only one area of ​​the lake where you can take a boat ride has been banned,” Vasconcelos said. “Even so, with the news, the decline in movement reached 95% shortly after the tragedy. But if we compare the result of April this year with that of previous years, the difference was not so great. It is also necessary to differentiate the consequences of what happened on January 8 from those faced by several tourist cities “, commented Vasconcelos, citing, as an example, the impact of heavy rains that hit the state at the beginning of the year, impacting tourism.

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The municipal decree that released the water excursions on a part of Lake Furnas establishes that the return of the boats must take place in a controlled way. All limits and safety lanes must be signaled. A maximum of four vessels may be allowed on the demarcated route identified as Section 1. The so-called Section 2 can only be accessed by one ship at a time – and no stops will be allowed on this route.

According to the local authorities, the boats must respect a minimum distance from the walls. All passengers must sign a consent form with guidelines for new visitation rules, such as the mandatory use of life jackets and helmets. Ships over 32 feet cannot access the canyons. The others cannot exceed the speed of 3 knots.

According to the town hall, the new rules follow the recommendations presented by the geological studies carried out after the tragedy of January 8 and by the Civil Police of Minas Gerais. In the police investigation launched to investigate the incident, the Civil Police concluded that natural events led to the detachment of the rocks and that the “geological process of relief remodeling” is common in the region, favoring the breaking of rock blocks.

The Civil Police presented ten suggestions for increasing the safety of tourist activities on the lake – among them, limiting the number of ships sailing simultaneously through canyons, improving the alert system and mapping the areas with the highest risk.

“While the access to the canyons was closed, we were able to create and implement a visit plan to strengthen and ensure the safety of visitors,” Barros said, explaining that the city of Capitólio is still studying the possibility of installing metal restraints. at least five points in the lake to minimize the risk of landslides and falling rocks.

“It simply came to our notice then. We are also evaluating the possibility of installing an electronic area monitoring system. In any case, the daily geological analysis, carried out by professionals employed by the mayor’s office, together with the other norms, already bring safety to the tourist activities on the lake “, the municipal secretary commented.

Campaign

After the tragedy, businessmen decided to unite to promote tourism in the region. A campaign led by the Capitólio Tourism Association (Ascatur) has already raised almost 1 million lei. The amount that will be invested in a project that, in addition to advertising regional attractions, aims to raise awareness among those living in the region – especially those working in tourism – of the importance of safety rules adopted after January 8, when a rocky wall. he broke away and hit four motor boats.

“Unfortunately, the new rules are accompanied by a lot of pain for losses,” said Vitor Vasconcelos, a member of the Ascatur board of directors, referring to the measures the mayor’s office has imposed to authorize the return of water trips through the canyon area. Lago de Furnas, as the obligation of tourist boats to keep a minimum distance from the rocky walls to avoid accidents in case of falling stones.

“Since January, many specialists have been coming to the city to study. Today, tourism in Lake Furnas is much safer and more organized, but we need residents, entrepreneurs, in short, all those who live in the region, to have access to this knowledge. Only then will we understand the raison d’être of the new rules and we will know how to present them and justify them to tourists. ”

According to him, the people who visited the canyons of Lake Furnas, since the 30th, accepted the new safety rules.

Seventy companies from the region collaborated on the project, making it possible to hire a communications company to draw up an action plan starting next week. “Fundraising was the easy part. So much so that the entrepreneurs themselves have already expressed their interest in a second round, as we have received very good proposals and we intend to make this type of investment again “, said Vasconcelos.

The Ascatur initiative joins the Reviva Capitólio project – Viva o Mar de Minas, announced by the government of Minas Gerais in early February. The state proposal provides for the allocation of R $ 5 million from the public fund to promote the safety of workers and tourists, in addition to strengthening tourism in the region – one of the most visited in the state.

The first stage of the state project, which is already underway, includes a detailed geological and structural diagnosis. The second axis provides for the improvement of coastal management plans; directors; zoning and water use not only in Capitólio, but also in São José da Barra and São João Batista do Glória, which will apply the rules jointly.

In addition, the state government and the three cities must promote, in partnership with public agencies and social entities, training actions to encourage the safe and sustainable use of Lake Furnas. Finally, the fourth axis of the project provides for communication actions to promote the tourist attraction throughout the country.

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