Yucatan’s haciendas may be poised for a second golden era as owners are organizing to cooperate better and promote themselves more widely as guest accommodations and tourist attractions.
What this could mean is not only more money in the pockets of hacienda owners, but also a ripple economic boost for struggling parts of rural Yucatan that have so far missed out on the tourism boom the region has experienced in recent years.
Haciendas reached their first apogee in the late 19th century henequen boom, when they formed the nucleus of Yucatan’s thriving economy. Today there are about 200 haciendas scattered throughout the state in condition to be restored or that have already been recovered from years of neglect in the jungle, said Richard Nichols, owner of Hacienda Dzibikak near Uman.
Nichols is also administrator of the Yucatan Hacienda Owners Association, which represents about 25 owners throughout the state. He says haciendas are on the cusp of exposure as world-class travel destinations.
“The Yucatan hacienda will become as widely known and sought-after as the Tuscan villa, the Swiss chalet or the Malibu beach house,” said Nichols in an interview with The Yucatan Times. “We could become a household word. We’re just one step away from that recognition.”
Haciendas already are popular on the international advertising circuit as backdrops for photo shoots for designer clothing and catalogs, Nichols said.
This has contributed to haciendas’ growing appeal as unique settings for holiday rentals, including family reunions, group retreats and destination weddings. Destination weddings have emerged as a major economic boon for nearby tourism hubs like Cancun and Cozumel.
“Cancun is the biggest location in the world for destination weddings,” Nichols said. “They get almost 40,000 a year, and some hotels do as many as 15 a day. If we could get more of that segment, we would be a lot busier.”
A major goal of the hacienda association is to secure more help from state and local governments in promoting themselves. This includes erecting roadway signs that indicate location and distances for haciendas.
Roadway signage could be the first step to develop a “Yucatan Hacienda Trail” similar to the tequila distillery trail popular in Jalisco and other touristic routes around the world. A trail would provide tourists with a motive and means to spend more time visiting rural Yucatan, Nichols said.
The owners also hope to persuade government officials to develop a website and folding brochure with a map indicating haciendas’ locations.
Nichols said Yucatan Gov. Rolando Zapata Bello has taken notice of haciendas’ efforts. The group also believes it has a friend in Merida city hall: Carolina Cardenas Sosa, a hacienda owner, is the city’s Director of Tourism and Economic Promotion.
Cardenas did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Two multi-million-dollar projects currently underway just south of Merida also convince Nichols and others that Yucatan has a major tourism resource in its haciendas. One will have a spa in a cenote and the other will feature 60 hotel rooms.
“Combined these projects are worth about $20 to $30 million. The owners must feel the time is right.”
By Robert Adams for TYT
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