We don’t quite think of Mexico when it comes to wine tourism, but the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California is perfectly placed to offer the best of all worlds: luxury, adventure, affordability, and safety, says Eduardo Durazo Watanabe.
It was once considered a niche industry, but wine tourism has truly grown in recent years. Unfortunately, COVID-19 changed that. In 2020, the vast majority of wineries in over 30 countries reported significant losses in tourism, and 53 percent of wineries stated that they lost 50 percent or more of their revenue. As vaccines became more available and infection numbers went down, there was a rise in optimism before the Delta variant added some more uncertainty.
Despite this, most industry experts and watchers believe that wine tourism will rebound, and there are already signs of this. As the recovery continues, and COVID infection numbers hopefully go down again, the Valle de Guadalupe (Guadalupe Valley) region in Baja California will become an increasingly attractive destination for tourists, entrepreneurs, investors, and developers for many reasons.
Domestic Tourists Discover a Local Treasure
Early in the pandemic, when lockdowns happened and borders were closed, domestic travelers in Mexico could no longer travel to the U.S. and elsewhere. But many of them discovered that there was someplace they could go that was very close and offered the same kind of experience that they were seeking abroad. That place is the Guadalupe Valley region in Baja California, which is starting to become better known both domestically and internationally for its scenic landscapes, world-class food, and premiere wine. With over 100 wineries, this region produces 90 percent of the wine that comes from Mexico.
Valle de Guadalupe is a Safe Haven for Travelers
As we learned more about the coronavirus in 2020, many of the wineries in Guadalupe Valley took advantage of the natural strengths of the region. There is a lot of wide, open space here, so wineries and restaurants were able to set up outdoor eating areas with plenty of space between tables to make guests feel safe. And even though Baja California has one of the highest vaccination rates anywhere, businesses have continued to enforce safety guidelines regarding masks and social distancing. Because this region relies on tourism, everyone is on the same page about doing everything possible to keep visitors safe.
The Wineries Target U.S. Tourists
In addition to drawing in domestic tourists, the businesses and wineries in Guadalupe Valley realized they have so much to offer American travelers as well, especially during the pandemic. So they started using very creative and innovative ways to raise brand awareness for the region. One of the ways they are doing this is using the natural beauty of the food, the wine, and the scenery to create organic engagement on social media. An example is the restaurant La Justina, which set up a neon sign that says, “You Look Good.” Visitors constantly take photos here and post them on Instagram or Facebook, helping to continuously raise brand awareness.
Another way local wineries are drawing in tourists from the U.S. is by making everything as easy and convenient as possible. For example, they organize bus tours that take you to the wineries and then back home across the border again. This way, people can relax, enjoy the wine, and not have to worry about driving back home. And since there are many wineries in the area, wine lovers can enjoy trying many different kinds of wine at once. The local government also helped by building roads that provide the tour buses with easy access to the wineries and attractions.
More Bang for the Buck
U.S. travelers who newly discover the Valle de Guadalupe find themselves very pleasantly surprised in many ways. First, many of them did not know that a renowned wine region existed so close across the border. Next, they become delighted when they find out how much their dollar can buy in the Valle de Guadalupe compared to famous wine regions in the U.S. such as Napa Valley or Temecula. Of course, Napa Valley will always be popular, but travelers who want to stretch their dollars are finding Guadalupe Valley to be a very attractive alternative. Plus, for Americans who live close to the border, the area is so close and can be reached by car, which is another bonus since some travelers might still be hesitant about air travel.
In addition to the fine wine and dining, there are also many outdoor activities to enjoy here such as hiking, surfing, and scuba diving (the Gulf of California is often called “the aquarium of the world”). As mentioned, the local vaccination rates are also very high, making this region a safe place to visit during the pandemic. On top of everything, English is widely spoken here. This is why this region will continue to be an appealing place for American travelers even though U.S. travel destinations and California wineries have reopened.
In addition to tourists, the Guadalupe Valley region is also attracting many investors and developers. An example of a developer group that is very active in the area right now is Cuatro Cuatros. The rush of investment and development is for the same reasons already mentioned: the world-class food, wine, scenery, range of activities, and the promise of future growth. Also, as mentioned, because of the high vaccination rates and strict safety guidelines, this is a travel destination that can be resilient during a pandemic.
The longer the COVID-19 pandemic lasts, the more travelers will be eager to escape. The Valle de Guadalupe is in the perfect position to offer the best of all worlds: luxury, adventure, affordability, and safety.
Eduardo Durazo Watanabe is Coordinator of the Masters of Business Administration and a Research Oriented Professor at CETYS Universidad in Baja California. He is co-author of the book “Cultural and Creative Industries: A Path to Entrepreneurship and Innovation“. He is also an analyst at the television networks Uniradio TV, Telemundo Tijuana and PSN.