Among Mexico’s most celebrated and best-preserved colonial-era cities are Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende, both of which attract domestic and international visitors to Guanajuato. The two are renowned for their historic architecture, cultural sites and narrow, cobblestone roads, features that serve them well in drawing in high-end leisure tourists. Meanwhile, the state’s more modern cities – such as Irapuato, León and Silao – have focused more on building modern networks of roads and motorways, developing hotels and restaurants that cater to business travellers.
Contributing to the state’s dynamic tourism industry are the global accommodation providers that have established local operations. Some recent additions include properties developed and managed by Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hudson, Marriott and Hampton Inn. “Guanajuato has as many as 65 new four- and five-star hotels,” Ricardo Alaniz, director of Concamin, the Bajío region’s confederation of business chambers, told OBG. In Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende visitors can also find boutique hotels and facilities, which attracts upper-income visitors. For example, hotels such as the Doce18 Concept House in San Miguel de Allende and the Villa Maria Cristina in Guanajuato City have helped Guanajuato earn significant cachet within the luxury travel market. In 2017 Travel + Leisure magazine named San Miguel de Allende as the world’s best city to visit.
In order to appeal to the luxury market, the state government has ramped up efforts to build its attractions. Since 2012 Guanajuato’s state government has invested over MXN200m ($10.8m) in building and restoring theatres, libraries, cultural centres, monuments and archaeological sites. The state already has a diverse array of cultural attractions including the Regional Museum of Guanajuato, the Dr José María Luis Mora Museum, the Augustinian Convent Museum of San Pedro and San Pablo, the San Miguel de Allende Historic Museum, the Casa de Hidalgo Museum and the Agustino de Fray Juan de Sahagún Convent Museum. Together, these facilities received more than 567,500 visitors in 2017. In addition, there are numerous archaeological sites in the state, which provide another attraction for tourists visiting the area. Guanajuato’s main archaeological sites of El Cóporo, Plazuelas, Peralta and the Cañada de la Virgen logged more than 79,000 visitors in 2017.
Because of its wide range of cultural attractions and boutique accommodation offerings, Guanajuato has burnished its reputation as a tourism destination over the last decade, seeing a sizeable bump in the number of visitors it receives. In 2017 the state welcomed some 5.4m tourists, a 16% increase over figures recorded in 2016, making it the sixth most-visited state in the country. The majority of these visitors drive in from neighbouring states, though a substantial portion of tourists arrive via air transit. The number of passenger arrivals at Guanajuato International Airport rose by 14% in 2017 to reach 2m.
Having a diverse selection of attractions that range from conference centres to ecotourism and adventure destinations, historical sites and corporate facilities, Guanajuato attracts a mix of business visitors and vacationers. Overall, the state is considered to have one of the most dynamic tourism economies in Mexico.
“San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato City attract more international tourists, while in the industrial zone hotels tend to be used by business visitors, rather than people on family holidays,” Javier Padilla Guerrero, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for the Mexican Construction Industry, told OBG.
The breadth of offerings has drawn both foreign and local investors, with the sector receiving MXN2.5bn ($135.1m) in private investment in 2017, and MXN10.4bn ($562m) over the 2013-17 period. Moving forward, the industry appears to be prepared to continue enhancing investment. The state’s next priority will be attracting the necessary investment to develop properties that cater to visitors from a wider range of income levels.
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