San Miguel de Allende one of many shining stars in Mexican state of Guanajuato
Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, Guanajuato, Mexico

San Miguel de Allende one of many shining stars in Mexican state of Guanajuato

TORONTO — Even if you’re unfamiliar with the Mexican state of Guanajuato, you’ve no doubt heard of San Miguel de Allende, one of Guanajuato’s shining stars for inbound tourism.

Long home to artists and culture seekers, in recent years the destination has attracted increasing numbers of travellers, all dazzled by the beauty of this colonial-era city famous for its baroque Spanish architecture.

While San Miguel de Allende isn’t the only noteworthy destination in the state of Guanajuato, it’s certainly one of the best-known, as Guanajuato’s Secretary of Tourism, Juan Jose Alvarez Brunel, readily acknowledges.

In fact San Miguel de Allende is one of Mexico’s famed Magical Towns, part of a Mexico Tourism Board campaign that launched years ago and still resonates with travellers and the trade alike.

San Miguel de Allende one of many shining stars in Mexican state of Guanajuato

Juan Jose Alvarez Brunel

Both San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato’s capital city, also named Guanajuato, are World Heritage Sites. “We are very proud of what we have inherited,” says Alvarez Brunel with a smile. Alvarez Brunel was head of a delegation from the state of Guanajuato to Canada for meetings with Canadian tour operators.

Mexico’s states and cities have worked hard to fill the gap in the years since the 2019 closures of Mexico Tourist Board offices in cities around the world. The closures were part of a restructuring plan brought in by Mexico’s government. “None of the cities or states can compensate [for what the MTB could do],” says Alvarez Brunel. The MTB was a powerhouse in markets like Canada, where Mexico has long been a top destination.

On his trade mission to Canada last week, Alvarez Brunel highlighted Guanajuato’s strengths.

Trending destinations like San Miguel de Allende have helped keep tourism to the state strong, even without the beaches that typically attract visitors from Canada and other countries.

In 2019 Guanajuato welcomed some 130,000 Canadian visitors. Alvarez Brunel says the destination is pursuing direct flights from Canada. Guanajuato International Airport (BJX), located between the cities of Guanajuato and Leon, is Mexico’s sixth busiest airport. Canadian visitors typically fly through Mexico City and on to BJX, or via one of 13 direct flights from U.S. gateways including L.A., Dallas, Houston and Chicago.

Some of Guanajuato’s top draws include high-end gastronomy, romance, history and culture, not just in San Miguel de Allende but in other cities throughout the state. Nature tourism is also big in Guanajuato, with more than 20% of state land designated as protected areas. And Guanajuato’s hot springs mean the state is an increasingly strong draw for the wellness market too. “We have a broad offering for tourism,” says Alvarez Brunel.

While this was the delegation’s first trip to Canada, it likely won’t be its last. Alvarez Brunel says Guanajuato already works with tour operators including Royal Scenic and Indus. More will no doubt be added to the list. Guanajuato is also looking at setting up agent training sessions in Toronto and Vancouver.

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