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León Hosts Sustainable Tourism Summit

There’s more to Mexico than its sun-drenched coastline.

Rich in history, culture and gastronomy, the nation’s inland states provide a fine alternative to a beach vacation.


Guanajuato is one of the states reaping the benefits of the growing international interest in experiential travel. The region boasts two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the city of Guanajuato and expat favorite San Miguel de Allende.


Indeed, most travelers flock to these heritage cities and other magical towns while overlooking the metropolis of León. Nicknamed the “leather capital of the world,” this city of 1.7 million people offers amazing deals on boots, belts, bags and more.


A Tourism Summit

León has also earned a reputation as a sterling conference host. Most recently (from August 30 to September 2), the city welcomed the Sustainable & Social Tourism Summit, including tourism dignitaries from across Mexico.


Dirk Glaesser, president of the International Social Tourism Organisation (ISTO), credited the annual forum with bringing together “government officials, business people, academics, and people interested in making tourism a comprehensive development tool at the service of communities and territories.”


And in introducing the seventh edition of this gathering, José Alvarez Brunel, secretary of tourism, said: “The state of Guanajuato is committed to promoting the culture of sustainability, solidarity, and social responsibility in tourism.”


He added: “León is hosting the summit again because we know how to host significant format events and do it well. We have excellent infrastructure and facilities, such as the Poliforum complex, a great ally of tourism and the state economy. We are well-prepared for such large meetings and events. We have 2,000 rooms within walking distance of the convention center.”


In Mexico, only four cities — Mexico City, Cancun, Guadalajara and Monterrey — do more convention business than León. It hosted its first international shoe fair in 1979, and since has welcomed such industries as medicine, veterinary, automaking and robotics.


Touring The City

Leon’s pre-Columbia history dates back more than 2000 years. Spanish homesteaders arrived in 1530 and the city of León de los Aldama was founded in 1576.  


About 70% of all shoes made in Mexico come from León and its surrounding area. The best place to look for them — cowboy boots, in particular! — is the “flea market” of Zona Piel.


Beyond leather goods, the highly walkable city of León boasts vibrant plazas, historic churches, museums, and fine food, ranging from street bites to high-end dining. Not to be missed is the massive cathedral Templo Expiatorio el Sagrada Corazon de Jesus, also known as “Notre Dame Mexicana,” with its high ceilings and stained glass. 


Meeting and convention visitors may enjoy group outings to explore the nearby landscape on horseback, or golfing at PGA El Bosque Country Club Gran Jardin and Villas. Its facility include an 18-hole course, spa, pool and tennis. Winemaking here is a 21st-century phenomenon. The unassuming Ruta del Vino (Wine Route) showcases nearly 30 Guanajuato wineries that offer visitors an authentic, unhurried experience.


Getting There

Del Bajio International Airport, in León’s neighboring city of Silao, now connects 21 destinations within Mexico and nine international routes. There are approximately 276 weekly flights.


In July, Volaris Airline added 12 new domestic flights to León. The city is now directly linked to Acapulco, Ciudad Obregon, Culiacan, Hermosillo, La Paz, Los Mochis, Mazatlan, Oaxaca, Torreon, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Veracruz, and Zihuatanejo.


Other airlines operating flights to Del Bajio are American Airlines, Aeromexico, United Airlines, and VivaAerobus. They offer connections in the United States to Chicago, Dallas, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Antonio, and San José.


Clearly, tourism is on the rise. By the end of 2023, the state of Guanajuato expects to welcome more than 23 million visitors, bringing an economic boom of nearly 50 million pesos (US$2.9 million).

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