Business & Finance

A New Cosmopolitan Baja Reports Biggest Year of Tourism in the Last Decade

With New Hotels, a Ballyhooed Native Cuisine, A Rising World-Class Wine Region and More Accessible Border Access, Baja is Poised for the Next-Gen of Travelers

TIJUANA, MX. March 29, 2017 – In 2016, over 23 million U.S. citizens crossed the border into Mexico’s northernmost state, making it Baja California’s most successful tourism year in the last decade. Two major travel accolades set the stage for another year of blossoming Baja travel, as Valle de Guadalupe is recognized among Travel + Leisure “50 Best Places to Travel in 2017” and Tijuana is a go-to on New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2017” list. The momentum is due to a new generation of Baja California innovators and trailblazers that are welcoming international visitors with a sincere enthusiasm to share an authentic taste of what the culturally rich region has to offer. Upon journeying south of the border, travelers will discover a buzzing craft beer scene and an unmistakable grassroots culinary movement with world-class chefs putting Baja-Med cuisine on the foodie map, while also transforming its highly regarded wine region of Valle de Guadalupe into a global destination. Next-level hotels, ranging from boutique to business, are also opening up from Tijuana through Mexicali, and infrastructure is improving to transform travel through the region as more efficient and enticing.

These new developments are certainly fueling an influx of visitors, as Baja California’s nearly 600 hotels have seen an increase in average occupancy by over 25 percent since 2014. To support this continued surge in tourism, the state is set to welcome at least 19 new hotels by 2019, including projects in Tijuana, Ensenada, Mexicali and Rosarito.

In early 2017, Tijuana’s famous Avenida Revolución will welcome One Bunk, a boutique lifestyle hotel with 15 well-appointed rooms, an on-property mezcal lounge, coffee bar and nano barber shop, as well as a communal rooftop that will serve as an urban gathering ground for locals and guests to enjoy top-tier offerings from Tijuana-based vendors. Meanwhile, El Cielo Winery in Valle de Guadalupe, which is known for being a leader in the region’s sustainable approach to winemaking, will introduce a 58-suite hotel and conference center, set to open in summer 2017. Other notable new arrivals within the next two years will include the opening of Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriot in Tijuana and Ensenada, Hotel One in Mexicali, Hotel Ibis by Accord Hotels in Tijuana, and City Express Suites in Tijuana and Rosarito.

The state of Baja California, known for scenic beaches, cult-favorite street food, and bountiful adventure travel opportunities, has revealed a new cosmopolitan side to the diverse but distinct region over the past several years. While Tijuana still evokes a vibrant nightlife scene, the city has also evolved into a hotspot for innovative culinary fare and craft beer that rivals its north-of-the-border neighbor, San Diego. The authentic gastronomic experience has lured gourmands from the U.S. and beyond for venues like Telefónica Gastropark, a culinary commune made up of several retro food trucks; the Plaza Fiesta craft beer district – an open-air galleria with 15 craft breweries, many of which have opened in the past five years; and revered Baja-Med restaurants, such as El Taller and La Querencia by Chef Miguel Angel Guerro, and Mision 19 by celebrity chef Javier Plascencia, a revered ambassador of the region. Meanwhile, Tijuana’s award-winning Culinary Arts School designed by “starchitect” Jorge Gracia, continues to lure top toques eager to master Baja Med cuisine, which is refined and rustic, tapping into regional delicacies like chocolate clams, pulpo (octopus), quail and cave-aged queso.

Just down the coast, Ensenada is catapulting momentum for the Baja-Med movement by showcasing its prized seafood and ushering in renegade brewpubs frequented by globe-trotting craft beer enthusiasts. Inland of Ensenada, the burgeoning wine region of Valle de Guadalupe is now home to over 100 wineries attracting regional travelers and seasoned wine connoisseurs seeking varietals featured on México’s elite restaurant lists, including Corazón de Tierra, which was named among the 2016 “Top 50 Restaurants in Latin America.” Unlike more commercial wine regions throughout the world, the Valle experience is both rugged and refined, a scenic wonderland with a sense of discovery. Al fresco restaurants, such as Malva, Fuego, Deckman´s, Tres Gallines and Tras Lomita, are nestled into the vineyards and dirt roads lead visitors to modern masterpieces like the award-winning hotel Encuentro Guadalupe, built into the mountainside. In fact, the Valle has emerged as the Mexican epicenter for culinary and viniculture creativity, where the country’s leading chefs, winemakers, architects and hoteliers use a sustainable and artistic lens to envision projects that are essentially “new Baja California.”

In early 2016, the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) bi-national airport bridge opened to provide an easy, seamless way for travelers to quickly pass from the U.S. to the Tijuana Airport (TIJ) by using a 390-foot, indoor skywalk. Travelers with tickets for flights departing from TIJ simply park or are dropped off at the secure facility on the U.S. side of the border, check-in, and walk across the bridge and over the border into the Tijuana airport up to 24 hours prior to departure. In its first year, the facility was used by close to a million travelers departing from TIJ, and the airport has seen a 37 percent increase in travelers since the previous year.

Earlier this year, The Ministry of Tourism for the State of Baja California added a pop-up feature to their official website,, to easily guide visitors to find updated information about current road conditions, access to border crossings, local airport and weather news. Additionally, U.S. visitors can save time returning across the border by requesting a Fast Pass from select hotels or medical tourism destinations that they patronize, allowing them to speed past standard border lines through the FastLane. Border wait times are also significantly reduced for drivers with a SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) pass, which can be applied for with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Ministry of Tourism has also introduced a tourist assistance hotline that is staffed with bilingual personnel that are ready to assist with everything from general travel information to help in case of emergencies. Upon dialing 078 from any public, private or cell phone, tourists will be connected with a representative equipped to help, including connecting them to the U.S. Consulate if necessary.

About Baja California:

The Mexican state of Baja California is a diverse destination offering one-of-a-kind experiences for culinary connoisseurs, adventure travelers, spa seekers, and more. The region is complete with beaches, forests and deserts and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California. Baja California plays home to a flourishing culinary scene—Tijuana offers some of the best street food in the world; from food trucks and food gardens to top-notch restaurants, fueled by some of the world's most innovative chefs. Valle de Guadalupe’s vineyards and award-wining wines continue to draw visitors from across the U.S. and around the world, and the region's craft beer scene continues to flourish, from Tecate to Ensenada and beyond. For travelers seeking tougher terrain, Baja is also an adventure capital, with an array of coastal towns like San Felipe and Bahía de Los Ángeles, perfect for taking a plunge during a shark diving adventure or sport fishing; national parks for wildlife viewing in San Quintin and Tecate, mountainous regions and deserts for off-roading. In addition, Mexicali is being developed as the hub for Medical Tourism in Northern Mexico. There is always a great time to visit, with more than 600 events taking place throughout the year, ranging from off-roading and boat races, to food, spirits and art festivals. Not only is Baja California a short drive from Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, but Tijuana’s new Cross Border Xpress (CBX) pedestrian bridge that links San Diego to Mexico via the Tijuana airport now makes it easier than ever to visit Baja California.

J Public Relations

Coming Up In The September Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Hotel Group Meetings: Blue Skies Ahead
After a decade of sacrifice and struggle, it seems that hotels and meeting planners have every reason to be optimistic about the group meeting business going forward. By every industry benchmark and measure, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year, which means more meetings in more locations for more attendees. And though no one in the industry is complaining about this rosy outlook, the strong demand is increasing competition among meeting planners across the board – for the most desirable locations, for the best hotels, for the most creative experiences, for the most talented chefs, and for the best technology available. Because of this robust demand, hotels are in the driver’s seat and they are flexing their collective muscles. Even though over 100,000 new rooms were added last year, hotel rates are expected to rise by a minimum of 4.0%, and they are also charging fees on amenities that were often gratis in the past. In addition, hotels are offering shorter lead times on booking commitments, forcing planners to sign contracts earlier than in past years. Planners are having to work more quickly and to commit farther in advance to secure key properties. Planners are also having to meet increased attendee expectations. They no longer are content with a trade show and a few dinners; they want an experience. Planners need to find ways to create a meaningful experience to ensure that attendees walk away with an impactful memory. This kind of experiential learning can generate a deeper emotional connection, which can ultimately result in increased brand recognition, client retention, and incremental sales. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group business and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.