Mexico’s Colonial Cities Roll Out New Hotels, Attractions

Lobby of the Conrad San Luis Potosi

Mexico’s colonial cities are making hotel headlines and otherwise ramping up their game.

In San Luis Potosi, a new Conrad has opened its doors. It’s the first Conrad Hotels & Resorts property in Mexico and only the second in Latin America. The 134-room hotel is in the upscale Lomas neighborhood, and features a seven-story glass façade.

Amenities include smart TVs, espresso machines and premium linens in rooms. A fifth-floor terrace pool and bar offer city views. In the Executive Lounge, guests can enjoy private check-in, continental breakfast and cocktail hours. There’s 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space. And the "Conrad 1/3/5" program offers curated experiences that highlight local culture, art and gastronomy.

San Luis Potosi isn’t the only colonial city welcoming new properties. Grupo Posadas will open Grand Fiesta Americana Oaxaca in 2018. The Oaxaca property is near El Llano Park, one of the most popular tourism spots in Oaxaca. It will have 145 rooms.

Travel Agent has recently told readers about Live Aqua Urban Resort San Miguel de Allende and the new Rosewood Puebla. In the latter destination, the hotel scene is about to get livelier.

Hotel industry veteran Federico Spada is coming in to manage Grupo Habita’s La Purificadora Hotel. Spada returns to the Habita group after a 17-year absence. He opened the original Habita Hotel in Mexico City’s Polanco District.

In the interim, Spada launched Nicaragua’s first luxury resort, Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa, on that country’s Emerald Coast.

Travel Agent spoke with Spada about his vision for La Purificadora.

The 26-room property is set in Puebla’s historic center. Its name refers to the building’s original use as a water purification center. Several architectural elements remain in place, including stone walls and aqueducts. They’re juxtaposed with starkly modern features, including a glass-walled swimming pool. Guestrooms feature views of the hotel grounds and city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“With La Purificadora, my goal is to refresh and restructure, create a lounge bar on the roof for weekends. I want to have something nice,” says Spada.

He’s eager to create synergies within Grupo Habita.

“I’d like to begin a new concept where our chefs move around to different properties to create culinary experiences,” says Spada.

He doesn’t see the new Rosewood Puebla as competition.

“It’s for a different style of traveler. La Purificadora has a historical design and architecture. Rosewood is more conservative and standard,” says Spada.

He is, however, interested in joining forces in some ways.

“International travelers are not that brave to go out and find new restaurants. Let’s say someone stays three days at Rosewood and they want to try something else. You can recommend that they go try the rooftop bar at another hotel. There are ways to work together. They’re doing it in Punta Mita and Mayakoba,” says Spada.

He’s also keen on combining stays in Mexico City with Puebla.

“What we will do is to have people arrive in Mexico City. They can stay two or three days with Habita. They can visit the Templo Mayor, see the pyramids and the cultural highlights there. Then, we can bring them an hour away to Puebla. The highway is perfect, it is very secure,” says Spada.

In the Yucatan, Campeche state is calling attention to colonial — and natural — attractions. Foremost among them is Mexico’s only fortified city, also called Campeche.

The Spanish built fortress walls on the Gulf of Mexico in the early 16th century. It protected against marauding pirates then. Today, it attracts visitors, along with surrounding colonial buildings, mansions, churches, military structures, botanical gardens and museums.

Campeche state is also home to the Los Petenes ecological reserve and the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Visitors to the Calakmul archaeological site might encounter some of the area’s most exotic animals. Among them: jaguars, ocelots, pumas, spider, monkeys, toucans and parrots.

“Our great location is one of our biggest assets. We’re in the middle of the Mayan world. It’s the best place to learn about the different era of the Maya. We also have six natural reserves in the state. We actually attract a lot of bird watchers from North America,” Eric Herrera, Undersecretary of Tourism for the state of Campeche, tells Travel Agent.

A Campeche native, Herrera proudly lists other local attributes.

“We have excellent shrimp and the Mayan cuisine here is different from the rest of the Yucatan peninsula. People who work in the service industries are descendants of Mayans. They’re from here. And we all know that we live in a special state. We’re very proud to teach visitors about our history and culture,” says Herrera.

He adds, “We don’t have the millions arriving each year, like they do in Cancun. We are the safest state in all of Mexico.”