Association News - Event Preview - February 2019


IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019 attendees will tour popular attractions in Guatemala City and Retalhuleu, Guatemala. An optional Post Tour will visit historic areas in three Guatemalan cities: Quetzaltenango, Atitlán, and Antigua Guatemala. (Credit: IRTRA)

IAAPA Latin America Summit Travels to Two Cities for the First Time

The 2019 summit will explore attractions in Guatemala City and Retalhuleu, Guatemala, and learn from IRTRA

by Juanita Chavarro Arias

Known for the vibrancy of its culture and beauty of its natural landscapes, Guatemala offers visitors a unique look into the heart of the Mayan world, as well as a plethora of attractions, ranging from theme parks with historical architecture to zoos dedicated to conservation and innovation. During IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019, taking place April 2 to 4, attractions industry executives and decision-makers will have the opportunity to interact with Guatemala’s entertainment sector through a number of exclusive experiences spread across two cities: Guatemala City and Retalhuleu. Attendees will tour popular attractions—including amusement and theme parks, a zoo, and a water park—and hear from the leaders who operate them. Furthermore, participants will learn from the team at the Institute for the Recreation of Private Enterprise Workers of Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, IRTRA), which will offer specialized sessions about the organization’s processes, practices, and experiences. Attendees can choose to attend one of four concurrent sessions centered on food and beverage, theming, sustainability, or guest service.

New this year, IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019 will provide simultaneous Spanish-to-English translation at all conferences, presentations, and facility tours. Additionally, summit participants will earn 16 credit hours applicable toward IAAPA Certification.

The summit will take attendees on tours of amusement and theme parks, a zoo, and a water park, and also offer specialized sessions led by the IRTRA team. (Credit: IRTRA, Xetulul Theme Park)

What to Expect

The three-day summit program will begin on April 2 in Guatemala City with IRTRA President Ricardo Castillo Sinibaldi, a member of the IAAPA Hall of Fame and recipient of the IAAPA Lifetime Service Award, delivering the summit’s keynote address at the opening event at Mundo Petapa. He will share personal anecdotes and discuss his work as the institute’s president for almost 50 years.

On the morning of April 3, attendees will travel by airplane to Retalhuleu, Guatemala, located 190 kilometers away from the country’s capital. In Retalhuleu, participants will stay at the IRTRA Hostal Palajunoj, a complex of five buildings inspired by the world’s rainforests and each with a different theme: Polynesian, Indonesian, Thai, African, and Mayan. The resort features recreational areas, swimming pools, themed restaurants, and a spa. Participants will return to Guatemala City on April 5, and an optional Post Tour will travel to Quetzaltenango and Atitlán on April 5 and Antigua Guatemala on April 6 (see box on p. 36).

Here is a look at some of the facilities IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019 will visit:

Mundo Petapa

Mundo Petapa is a 10-hectare amusement park opened by IRTRA in 1976. Today, the park offers 23 rides and attractions, an aquatic area, theaters, themed areas, and restaurants. IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019 attendees will tour the park and have lunch in the themed area Plaza Mi Barrio, transporting them to Guatemala at the beginning of the 20th century.

La Aurora Zoo

Spread across 15 hectares, La Aurora Zoo is home to more than 2,100 animals from 287 species and welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors a year. Opened in 1924, the zoo has recently modernized to improve its habitats, including Africa, America, Asia, aquarium, aviary, and a farm. The zoo staff will lead attendees on an educational tour highlighting the facility’s conservation, theming, and sustainability efforts. The zoo visit will close with a mapping show at the Kan Kingdom Serpentarium and a dinner.


The architecture at Xocomil water park evokes a Mayan theme. (Credit: IRTRA, Xocomil Water Park)


Xocomil water park evokes a Mayan theme through its architecture and lush vegetation. Xocomil, meaning “wind that blows strongly on the lake,” has 15 attractions, including an aquatic coaster named “Tamagás.” Attendees will tour its facilities and learn about the processes that make this park a unique facility in the region. 

Xetulul theme park’s themed areas highlight Guatemala’s origin and history. (Credit: IRTRA, Xetulul Theme Park)


Xetulul is a 21-hectare theme park with 26 family and thrill attractions, shows, and eight themed restaurants. In 2008, Xetulul received the Liseberg Applause Award, which recognizes excellence and inspiration in the attractions industry. The park’s themed areas show the origin and history of Guatemala, as well as the European countries that have influenced Guatemalan culture. During this first part of the tour on April 3, summit attendees will visit the Spain, Italy, and Germany-Switzerland Plazas, ending the day with a show at the Great Theater of France at the France Plaza. The tour will continue on April 4, visiting Plaza Chapina, Guatemala Town, Fantasy Village, and Caribbean Town, along with service areas that facilitate the park’s daily operations.



Tree house at Xejuyup (Credit: IRTRA, Xejuyup)


On the final day of IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019, participants will visit the recently inaugurated IRTRA theme park, Xejuyup. The new park offers themed lodging, fishing areas, horseback riding, mountain bike trails, tree houses, an interactive farm, an aviary, an equestrian theater, and a lake. The summit will wrap with a festive farewell dinner in the resort area.

Experience More of Guatemala’s Culture and History on the Post Tour

Following IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019, attendees can take part in the summit’s Post Tour, April 5 and 6, which will first visit Quetzaltenango and Atitlán, Guatemala, and continue to Antigua Guatemala, the first capital city of the country. 

The Post Tour’s opening day will explore the historic center in Quetzaltenango, largely composed of neoclassical and colonial architecture buildings that house government and cultural institutions. After lunch at the Tertulianos Restaurant and Museum, attendees will visit the Ron Botrán Museum, creators of Zacapa Rum. Lake Atitlán—surrounded by three volcanoes and Mayan villages—will be the afternoon stop. Then, participants will stay at Atitlán’s Hotel Porta del Lago.

From Atitlán, attendees will travel to Antigua Guatemala, a city with nostalgic cobbled streets, churches, monasteries, and family houses calling to the heritage of the Spanish colonial era. Lunch will be served at the Casa Santo Domingo, and a guided tour of the colonial city will include the Convent of the Capuchins, Santa Clara Convent, Union Tank, and La Merced Church. The group will return to Guatemala City at the end of the day.


For more information about IAAPA Latin America Summit 2019, visit