Why 2023 is the year of Yucatan

Meagan Drillinger

Yucatan is having a moment. The state has always been a fantastic destination for travelers is beginning to fully realize its potential, and 2023 is its year. That’s because travelers who seek low-density, nature-based destinations are discovering the places in Mexico that have what they’re looking for.

What keeps Mexico relevant as a travel destination year after year is that there is a piece of Mexico that appeals to every type of traveler. Mexico is not a stranger to overdevelopment, but a handful of destinations in the country are making it very clear that that model is not right for them. Yucatan is one of them.

Low impact and low density

While other destinations in Mexico thrive on the all-inclusive market, Yucatan has reiterated many times over that it will not be a destination with an overwhelming number of all-inclusive resorts. Instead, Yucatan’s tourism development will swing toward smaller scale and boutique hotels and experiences, with an emphasis on the environment. 

Mundo Imperial Entertainment & Hospitality, for example, is opening its latest hotel, Xixim Mundo Imperial this year. The resort will open on the soft, white-sand beaches of Celestun (a destination known for its protected biosphere reserve). The resort will have 32 suites, each within a cabin with palm-covered roofs, private terraces and hammocks overlooking the reserve.

Another resort that embodies the ethos of Yucatan is the Galopina hotel, Casa Silvestre. Located 22 miles from Merida, the design-forward hotel is shrouded in jungle near archaeological ruins and cenotes. The design is simply flawless, with turquoise-colored pools, stonework, a natural palette and lush greenery. Galopina has only five suites and strives to make the experience as customizable as possible. The property has many miles of walking trails, organic gardens and meditation terraces.

The growth of Yucatan

This isn’t to say that Yucatan is inaccessible. Quite the contrary, actually. As Yucatan continues to grow, it becomes increasingly more connected to both the rest of Mexico and the world. The new jungle resorts and expansion of the beach destinations are what Yucatan has been working on for the past few years. But the mainstays in the state are also continuing to evolve, and visitors are paying attention.

In 2019, the state received roughly $584 million in private investment in hotels, restaurants and other establishments. The city of Valladolid had a growth in arrivals of 45.8 percent in 2019. Chichen Itza saw a 62.6 percent increase, as well. Off-the-beaten-path destinations like Uxmal saw a 29.4 percent rise in visitors, and the Magical Town of Izamal saw a 50 percent increase in visitors.

From January to November 2022, Yucatan’s Merida airport received 2.7 million people, just about matching the figure in 2019, when the airport received 3 million passengers for the first time in its history.

Currently, Yucatan is connected through 11 national routes to Mexican cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Veracruz, Villahermosa, Tijuana and Oaxaca. They will be adding Toluca, Leon and Queretaro. Internationally there will be new routes to Houston, Miami, Dallas and Oakland, Calif., in the U.S.; Toronto in Canada; Havana; and Guatemala City and Flores in Guatemala.

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