San Luis Potosí has a portfolio of attractions to appeal to different segments of the tourism market. Beyond the picturesque colonial centre of the capital, palm groves, natural pools and archaeological sites make the south-eastern Huasteca region worthy of promotion, and adventure tourism has grown significantly in recent years with activities such as white-water rafting, climbing and mountain biking east of San Luis Potosí city. According to the “Third Government Report 2017-2018”, the number of visitors to the state in the three years from 2015 through to 2018 was 5.1m, compared to 3.25m in the 2012-15 period and 3.28m in 2009-12.
While the state has often lagged behind the more recognisable tourist hotspots of Cancún, Oaxaca and the Yucatán Peninsula in terms of the infrastructure it can offer guests, the situation is improving. Access is straightforward for road travellers, with regular four-hour bus services running from Mexico City and the 1295-km Highway 57 linking the state with the US border. Still, land connections are earmarked for further development. “The most important ways in which we can improve is in communications and transport – particularly the highways that serve the city. The moment we do that, the tourist offering of San Luis Potosí will become far more attractive,” Fernando Mata, director of the National Chamber of Commercial Services and Tourism in San Luis Potosí (Cámara Nacional de Comercio Servicios y Turismo de San Luis Potosí, CANACO-SERVYTUR), told OBG. Meanwhile, the state’s Ponciano Arriaga International Airport saw the number of passengers grow by 39% between 2013 and 2018 to 626,512.
Hotel infrastructure, for its part, is developing rapidly. With 32 hotels being built between 2015 and 2018, one in every five hotel rooms in the state was added during those years. The state also has the highest inland hotel occupancy rate in Mexico, measured at 69.1% between January 2016 and July 2018.
As the economy expands and investment inflows increase, business tourism is growing in the capital, where the majority of industry is concentrated. Regular direct flights take place between San Luis Potosí and Mexico City, new international flights to Houston and Dallas were launched in 2018, and a service to Detroit was opened in May 2019. Beyond improved air access to the city, infrastructure caters to business tourists’ needs. There is a wide highway that connects to the industrial parks located in the south of the city, as well as a large convention centre that has 5600 sq metres of meeting space and 9000 sq metres for exhibitions.
The events calendar is punctuated by Catholic celebrations, many of which are clustered around Holy Week and Easter – the busiest time of year for tourism in the state. While the sector relies on these celebrations and the city’s hotel capacity is stretched during the period, Mata is keen to broaden the appeal of San Luis Potosí. “We have an exceptionally strong programme of activities around Easter that is well known, but outside of that there is little demand,” he told OBG. Tourism conventions can play an important role in marketing, with the Tianguis Turístico 2020 – a trade show to be held in the Yucatán Peninsula – an important venue to showcase San Luis Potosí’s improving portfolio.
Looking ahead, a primary focus of CANACO-SERVYTUR is to develop human capital in San Luis Potosí by increasing the capacity of professionals in the sector. “As the profile of the average tourist coming to the region changes, we need to adapt,” Mata told OBG. “Before, we thought that if our service providers could speak English that it would open the door to the world, but this alone is not enough anymore.” To ensure professionals are well equipped to handle the opportunities and challenges of the current tourism environment, the organisation hosts training days and workshops for industry specialists.