Mérida, Yucatán — In 2011, when the restaurant Katún opened on Calle 60, between Avenida Colón and Cupules, the owners were in a prime location. But they couldn’t possibly have known just how prime.
Because back then, the city’s main convention center was 4 km. to the north.
Fast forward to today, and the modest Yucatecan restaurant is in the shadow of the new International Conference Center, where hungry business travelers have started to arrive.
Katún and other business owners are beginning to see the impact of suddenly being neighbors with a giant convention complex.
The CIC’s first event, the Urban Parks Expo, brought in more than 1,650 participants. Surrounding restaurants and hotels reported healthy gains during the three-day gathering.
This is just the beginning. For 2018-2019, 25 meetings and 37,710 visitors are booked. Collectively, these conventions and expos are expected to pump 500 million pesos into the economy.
The manager of Katún, Fernando Traconis Flores, said that since the opening of the Conference Center, he has seen a large influx of diners.
Most of visitors who came to the place were looking for their traditional Yucatecan dishes: cochinita pibil, lechón al horno and queso relleno.
At the unassuming La Terraza Amarilla, on Avenida Cupules right in front of the Convention Center, usually runs from 7 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. But during the parks expo, they stayed open until 5 to keep up with demand.
Restaurant owner Claudia María Espinosa Molina said she is thinking of making longer hours permanent.
“We are very happy, adapting to what is happening; we are going to prepare ourselves with more personnel, since we start at 4 in the morning. My husband and I are chefs, we cook and what customers ask for the most is cochinita, lechón, relleno negro, queso relleno and chayadzul, which is a chaya dish with egg and salsa de pepita.
Gustavo Méndez Chacón, owner of the adjacent San Fernando stand, said he usually stays open until 1:30 p.m., but these days, he runs out of tacos, tortas and panuchos before noon.
“Massive events begin and it begins to reflect in an increase in sales. There has been a lot of demand … as you see that the streets are better, more spacious, designed for the pedestrian,” he said.
New sidewalks and crosswalks have been established and paths have been cleared of poles, electrical boxes and other protrusions to encourage convention guests to roam the neighborhood.
Praise for the CIC
One of the International Conference Center’s first visitors is Hans Peter Intveen, who came from Chile to speak at the Urban Parks Expo. The urban planning minister gave high marks to the massive new complex.
“The architectural design draws my attention, the fact of integrating a cenote here. I come from a place where they are not common, so it seems to me something magical,” said Intveen. “Also the multi-functionality of the rooms as needed, the technology used and the acoustics that I have heard at the conferences is optimal. I have been in other countries and this International Center is of a high level; it is a luxury to attend a presentation in this place.”
This venue is world class, said Gerardo Minchaca Inman, an executive at Jumbo, company that manufactures playground equipment, said he has not seen anything of this quality in the United States.
“It can be seen that it is a building friendly to the environment because … its design optimizes the lighting,” said Minchaca, who also cited the ample loading docks.
“I’m impressed with how Mérida has evolved in terms of modernization, because 13 years ago Jumbo had a branch in this area and it’s nothing compared to how it is now,” he said.
A native of Guadalajara, Diego Eduardo López Valtierra said he was very satisfied with his experience at CIC.
“It’s a very accommodating place,” he said, citing the acoustics and lighting.
Ángel Sánchez Múzquiz, an exhibitor from the Czech Republic, appreciated seeing such a pleasant environment when exploring the neighborhood.
Nadia Beatriz Figueroa González, from Michoacán, appreciated how green spaces are integrated with the rest of the complex.
Source: Diario de Yucatán