Mazatlan is not Mexico’s best-known resort area. But that may change, as the city has spent years renewing its stunning historic center, which means visitors have much more than sun and sand to attract them. For meetings, the infrastructure has been on the rise as well.

A port city 200 miles due east of Cabo across the Sea of Cortez, Mazatlan has a rich and beautiful Colonial history visible in its Old Town, with an ever-growing number of refurbished museums, restaurants, shops, and an opera house as well.

“Mazatlan’s Centro Historico is in the process of being renovated. Many of the Colonial buildings have been restored to their original vibrant colors and boutique businesses have emerged, drawing tourists from the ‘Golden Zone’ [the original beachside resort area] to the heart of the city,” says Secretary Oralia Rice Rodriguez of the Sinaloa Tourism Board. “One of the most impressive buildings, now reopened, is the Teatro Angela Peralta, the opera house, built in 1874. Casa Melville is another beautifully restored building, where visitors can roam the home and courtyard of Moby Dick author Herman Melville. The draw for many visitors is how close this quaint historic downtown is from the beachside resorts and hotels. Mazatlan combines modern meeting facilities with a taste of Mexico's unique culture, Colonial history, and cuisine.

“Tourists can also visit the Historic District in the evenings and enjoy the pedestrian streets around the Plaza Machado, where many restaurants offer al fresco dining. Venues offer a variety of music, from dance to classical to jazz.”

Improving the historic center follows Mazatlan’s attention to its business offerings, which were capped by the opening of the Mazatlan International Center in November 2009. Located at the Marina Mazatlan, the center offers a 17,000-square-foot exhibit hall plus 17 meeting rooms totaling 62,000 square feet. Outdoor areas accommodate 10,000 guests in 166,000 square feet of space.

The Safety Question
The U.S. Department of State, which has issued warnings about travel to Mexico, nevertheless points out that “millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day.”

The most recent guidance advises against travel to the state of Sinaloa except for the city of Mazatlan. Caution is advised late at night—no different from cautions travelers would take in other cities.

“More than 9,000 Americans and Canadians have permanent residency in Mazatlan,” notes Secretary Rice Rodriguez. “They are the real witnesses to the daily life of foreigners here in Mazatlan, who enjoy excellent weather and great hospitality from the locals. They have expressed on multiple occasions that they have always felt safe.”

In addition, she says, “Mazatlan is well known for hosting massive events, such as this past February’s 114th Annual Carnival, where 300,000 locals and tourists celebrated for five days in the streets. The Oye! Awards, Mexico’s version of the Grammy Awards, was hosted in Mazatlan recently. Dozens of Latin American pop stars and celebrities attended the events with thousands of fans. Neither of these events would be possible if Mazatlan did not offer an atmosphere of security.”

Investors, too, are seeing opportunity in Mexico’s tourism future. At the recent 2012 Mexico Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference in Mexico City, presented by HVS, it was noted that Mexico’s economy grew 5.5 percent in 2010 and 3.9 percent in 2011.

Where to Meet
Among the top meeting properties in Mazatlan are: