Guanajuato: Mexico's Cultural Destination
Photo courtesy of the Guanajuato Tourism Board
Guanajuato is reaching out to U.S. travel agents and consumers to increase awareness of this central Mexican state, which, with its wealth of cultural, historic, architectural and gastronomic attractions, is known as Mexico’s Cultural Destination.
Guanajuato’s allure for U.S. visitors is already impressive, with one million visits by Americans in 2015, a figure that grew from just 600,000 in 2012, according to Fernando Olivera Rocha, secretary of tourism for the state. “And so far, we think that will grow to nearly 1.2 million in 2016,” he said.
Partly responsible for that boost is an increase in the last two and a half years in the number of flights to the state from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta, he noted.
TravelPulse talked with Olivera, who was in New York City to highlight the state’s attractions, establish stronger communication with the U.S. travel trade, and promote its new AgentGTO online training program.
“Agents are very important to us,” said Olivera. “We have about 400 U.S. agents that have started the program.” The goal is to have more than 3,000 specialist agents in the U.S. in a few years, he added.
Launched in Dallas at the end of 2015 and in New York at the beginning of this year, the program gives agents an opportunity to receive the Certified AgentGTO designation after completing six modules dealing with the state’s history, culture, hotels, restaurants, experiences and events. Agents are then listed on Guanajuato’s U.S. website as travel planning and booking resources.
There are already 3,000 Guanajuato agent specialists in Latin America and the program —available in English, Spanish and Portuguese — will be offered in German, French and Japanese in six months, said Olivera.
The U.S., however, is Guanajuato’s top international market, accounting for 65 percent to 70 percent of its international visitors, he said. Within the U.S., Texas, California, Illinois, and Arizona are the largest markets.
American agents have a lot to sell to clients, said Olivera. “We are the only state (in Mexico) where you will find two UNESCO World Heritage Sites — the cities of Guanajuato, the capital of the state, and San Miguel de Allende,” he said.
San Miguel de Allende is, “our strongest international brand,” said Olivera. The city, with a powerful cultural scene, is home to about 12,000 Americans, he added. “It has had an American presence since the beginning; you can find it in tourist guides in the early 1900s. It was a place to learn the Spanish language and then became the preferred destination in Latin America for retirement. This community has created music, dance, festivals, art and galleries.”
Beyond San Miguel de Allende, “Our cultural offerings include music, art and dance and we own the largest cultural festival in Latin America — the Festival Internacional Cervantino in the city of Guanajuato in October. It features 750 cultural activities in 24 days,” said Olivera.
The state is also where Mexico’s independence movement started 300 years ago. And it has five of Mexico’s “Magic Towns” — Dolores Hidalgo, Mineral de Pozos, Salvatierra, Yuriria, and Jalapa de Canovas.
Guanajuato tourism officials have lately been promoting the state as a culinary capital. It hosts an international food festival, the Cumbre Internacional de la Gastronomia, plus other culinary events including Gastronomicon and the Celebration of Traditional Foods.
READ MORE: The Magic Towns of Guanajuato
The city has been named the 2015 Ibero-American Capital of Food & Culture by the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.
“We have one of the best gastronomies in Mexico because of all of our different nationalities, in addition to our traditional cuisine, the cuisine of the desert,” said Olivera.
New attractions in Guanajuato include new tourist routes focusing on wine (the state has 23 wineries), and tequila, (it owns the denomination of origin for tequila).
Guanajuato is also expanding its tourism infrastructure. Among the developments is the opening of 54 new hotels throughout the state in the past three and a half years with another 29 under construction, Olivera said.
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