Mexico City wants planners to know it is open for business, and ready to host your meeting or event—even as clean-up from September’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake continues. Other Central Mexico destinations are similarly eager play host.
Herewith, noteworthy data points and tips…
- The capital has hosted an Olympics and two FIFA World Cups. Its rankings by International Congress and Convention Association (ICAA) have risen steadily over the decades: In 2016, Mexico City hosted more association meetings than Toronto, New York City or Washington, D.C.
- Other highlights:
- 12 million visitors per year
- 38,479 hotels rooms (four-star and above) at 600 hotels
- Major convention venues (none of which were seriously damaged in the earthquake):
- Expo Reforma Centro Banamex—Most renowned meeting space in Latin America, overlooking a race track; Earthcheck Gold-certified; 15,393 sq. ft. of expo space and 78,791 sq. ft. of meeting and convention space
- Expo Bancomer Sante Fe—In the most modern business district of the city, close to headquarters of many Mexican and international companies; 60,277 sq. ft. of meeting and convention space, and 403,915 sq. ft. of expo space.
- World Trade Center Mexico City—Boasts Pepsi Center, a major concert and event venue; 138,208 ft. of expo space and 128,661 sq. ft. of meeting space
- Blackberry Auditorium—15,091 sq. ft. of expo, meeting and convention space
- 3,000 tourist-quality restaurants
- In 2016, Mexico City ceased to be called the Federal District (Distrito Federal) and is now a formal state with more autonomy. In Spanish, you’ll see it written out as CDMX, a brisk acronym that reflects its modern, dynamic image.
- Within an Hour:
- Cuernavaca—Once the private hunting grounds for Aztec royalty, the Colonial city 50 miles south of Mexico City offers 30 hotels with 1,394 guest rooms. Don’t miss 16th-century Palace of Cortez, built atop a destroyed Aztec pyramid and the residence of conquistador Hernan Cortez. It now houses Cuaunahuac Museum and is home to a significant collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial artifacts as well as famous murals painted by Diego Rivera in 1930.
- Teotihuacan—Thirty miles northeast of Mexico City sits this vast Mexican archaeological complex, once a flourishing city of 150,000 that predated the Aztecs. Established around 100 B.C., Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities in the ancient world, and shows evidence that its builders had advanced knowledge in mathematics, geology, astronomy and engineering. The Pyramid of the Sun is one of the tallest pyramids in the world.
- Guadalajara is no stranger to large gatherings, and many of them are cultural and gastronomic. September, for example, sees the International Mariachi and Charreria Encounter, when hundreds of thousands watch the world’s best mariachis and Mexican rodeo performers strut their stuff. It also hosts the world’s second-largest international book fair.
- More than 23,550 guest rooms at 370 hotels
- Major convention venues:
- Expo Guadalajara—Largest convention center in Mexico, with 1.16 million sq. ft. of event space; recent upgrades include a room dedicated to press conferences and Festilia, a space with the latest tech for social events.
- Palace of Culture and Communications (PALCCO)—opened in February 2016, as a design-forward setting for corporate and social events; three auditoriums for 400 to 5,000 attendees, four meeting rooms for 30 to 360 attendees, plus exhibition areas.
- World Trade Center Guadalajara—66,131 sq. ft. of meeting space
- 700 tourist-quality restaurants
- Local flavor:
- Torta ahogada—This “drowned sandwich” gets its name from the chili-forward salsa that covers the salty sandwich roll, which is stuffed with meat, beans and onions.
- Birria—Goat or lamb is slow-cooked alongside glowing embers of hard wood, then served in a spicy broth accompanied by lime wedges, sliced jalapenos, diced onion and warm, corn tortillas.
- Meetings often revolve around the city’sagricultural, commercial and manufacturing businesses.
- More than 11,000 hotel guest rooms
- Major convention venues:
- Puebla Exhibition Center—One of the largest in Mexico and ranked in the top 10 for Mexican venues; in the Cinco de Mayo civic center, surrounded by museums and public parks; Earth Check silver certification; 430,556 sq. ft. of new meeting space, including the largest room without columns in Latin America; 24 breakout rooms.
- Centro Expositor Puebla—430,400 sq. ft. of meeting space.
- Centro de Convenciones Puebla—Also known as Convention Center William O’Jenkins; can host up to 3,400 attendees; 96,875 sq. ft. of event space, 12 meetings rooms and an auditorium.
- University Cultural Complex—Auditorium seating for 3,494; outdoor plaza seats 15,000.
- Local flavor:
- Mole Poblano—This single culinary classic is why Puebla is regarded as the second-most important culinary heritage city of Mexico, after Oaxaca. The story goes that nuns at a Puebla convent invented it for a visiting archbishop by combining no fewer than 20 indigenous and imported ingredients, including chocolate and various chili peppers to make the thick, lustrous, brown sauce that is ladled over cooked turkey. Muy rico! (Very tasty!) A dish for the ages.
- Chiles en Nogada—Inside plump poblano chili peppers goes a stuffing of minced meat, dried fruits and spices. Over the top is spooned a walnut-based cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. It’s no accident the dish echoes the green, white and red of the Mexican flag.
- Within an Hour
- Cholula—Only a few miles away, the tiny pueblo of Cholula has two claims to fame—a church for every day of the year and the Great Pyramid of Cholula. It’s the largest pyramid on the planet, with a base four times larger than the Great Pyramid at Giza. Built in the second century B.C., it is made of seven stacked trapezoids. You can test your stamina by climbing the exterior staircase or explore its antechambers and tombs.
More Colonial Gems
This beautifully preserved Colonial city in Mexico’s central highlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a beguiling maze of narrow cobblestone alleyways, underground passageways and buildings with opposing balconies that nearly touch. From humble origins, it grew to be Mexico’s wealthiest city during an 18th-century gold- and silver-mining boom.
Most popular of the city’s several museums is Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum), which houses a collection of naturally preserved corpses. The surrounding area has haciendas and old mines for group visits.
Guanajuato’s most famous gathering is Festival Internacional Cervantino, a huge celebration of the life and works of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes.
The city’s largest meeting space is Guanajuato Convention Center, which offers 19,660 sq. ft. of event space. Guanajuato offers 2,000 guest rooms in 45 meetings-friendly properties.
Guanajuato is located 230 miles northwest of Mexico City and most easily reached via Guanajuato International Airport (BJX), also known as Del Bajio International Airport.
San Miguel de Allende
Named the world’s top destination for 2017 by Travel and Leisure, this is your Mexican Colonial fantasy come true. It sits prettily at above 6,000 feet in elevation, centered on El Jardin (the garden), the main plaza and the cake-icing church Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, designed as the fantasy of a man with no architectural training.
The 140,000 who live there, which includes an artsy expat contingent, live the culture on the cobbled streets. Hardly a day goes by without gigantes, huge papier mache heads trailing dramatic costumes, being paraded by on poles, followed by uniformed brass bands and processions of celebrants, penitents or the merely curious.
Saturday sees Tianguis Organico, the best organic farmers market in Mexico, next to Instituto Allende, a visual arts school.
The best meeting and event space in town is Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, a luxury, hacienda-like hotel with 67 rooms and suites that features a rooftop restaurant, bar and event space with spectacular views to the Colonial rooftops, tiled church cupolas and mountains beyond. The hotel can accommodate up to 200 persons for indoor receptions and up to 600 outdoors, and has 4,740 sq. ft. of indoor meeting and prefunction space. There’s also an amphitheater and events lawn.
? Smart Tip
The 0 VAT—Foreign meeting planners can avoid the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on many services for meetings, conventions and congresses (but not for incentive events) in Mexico. Ask your hotel or meeting venue in advance for assistance.