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Madrid: Tourism facts and figures on FITUR 2016

Elisabeth Lang, special to eTN  Jan 31, 2016

Spain’s International Tourism Fair, FITUR, held from January 20-24, 2016 at Feria de Madrid has closed with the best figures ever, according to the event organizers.

This means that during the 5 days of the trade show, estimations are that it will have received a total of 231,872 visitors (professionals and public), representing growth of 6%.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

Moreover, FITUR welcomed 80 ministers and leading heads of tourism from the f5 continents. Furthermore, representing the highest state institutions as well as the Spanish government and the governments of the autonomous regions, the trade show was inaugurated by Queen Letizia of Spain on Wednesday, January 24, 2016.

Present this year at FITUR were 711 main stand holders - businesses, institutions, and organizations - representing a 3% growth, with the incorporation of 178 new businesses, of which more than 50% are international.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

Growth was also seen in the countries present at the trade show, at a very respectable 165, with 16 reinstatements with official participation, among them The Netherlands, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Belize, and Guinea, and the new participants - Burkina Faso, which came with official representation for the first time, and Latvia, participating with a business group.

Years ago, FITUR was opened by Spanish King Juan Carlos and Queen Irene. Thousands and thousands of people were eagerly waiting outside the gates not wanting to miss the Grand Opening Ceremony. Later, the King and Queen visited all the stands and shook hands with exhibitors surrounded by Spanish television and media.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

It was only 6 years ago that UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai personally accompanied Spanish Queen Irene to the Middle East region and to the impressive stand of Syria, who had sent the Tourism Minister to Madrid. Now Syria is in ruins, and the Ancient Palmyra, one of the most iconic sites in the world with 4,000 years of history, has been deliberately destroyed by ISIS.

However, coming back today to FITUR after a couple of years of absence, this time it was different. There were no crowds on opening day, and there was plenty of open space where there used to be huge stands of Spanish hotel chains and private enterprises.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

The former big players - the international tourist boards from destinations such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria, and Brazil - are not participating any longer. This year for the very first time in history, the participation of the Italian State Tourist Board, ENIT, was cancelled at the last minute due to budgets cuts.

While Switzerland retired from the Spanish market years ago, Africa stepped in with first timer Burkina Faso. When asked, “Why are you here?” The answer was, “We like to generate business and tell people to visit Burkina Faso, as the people who did the massacre at the Hotel Splendid are dead.” This prompted the question, “This is the reason to go?” The answer that came back was, “Yes - Paris had the attack in November; tourists returning to Paris. We want to tell the tour operators [that] Burkina Faso is open for business.”

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

It was good to see that Nepal is back to receive international guests. Most of its tourist attractions are in good condition, said Ashray Raj Gautam from Royal Mountain Trekking in Nepal and Responsible Treks & Tours for Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. Other than what has been reported by the international media, only 2 out of 50 monuments were destroyed by last year’s earthquake. In Katmandu Valley, 6 old cultural heritage sites can be visited where the locals are waiting with open arms to receive visitors.

Also not affected is the Buddha Trail, and all the trekking routes are open and safe, explains Ashray Raj Gautam. Outside of Katmandu, all the infrastructure is also intact. “We do need urgently tourists for our economy,” he said. Nepal received good news from the United Kingdom that Prince Charles has announced he will be going on a trekking trail in Nepal this April. Also, groups of British students were of great support, coming in large numbers in the past and during this very difficult year for Nepal. The earthquake mostly hit hard the remote villages which are far away from the trekking trails.

Photo © Elisabeth Lang

The region of Andra Pardesh in Northern India had a very nice stand, but it was difficult to understand why politicians are trying to promote a mostly unknown area, with so little interest to speak about with potential travelers.

Israel sent its Ambassador to FITUR to personally thank the Spanish media and tour operators for the support received during the past 30 years taking part in FITUR.

The show was without the Austrian Tourist Board, however, individual exhibitors from Austria shared a single stand. Senior Area Manager Doris Sequeira-Seidl for Mondale Destination Management in Vienna commented, “For us, FITUR is the strongest market for the incoming market of South America to Europe.

“Even though there is a big crisis in Brazil with tourist numbers [being] down, we do get many groups from Mexico, Venezuela, and elsewhere, and we are happy to be here.”

China plans to increase the number of passenger train services by 571 this year, including 563 high-speed trains. According to China Railway Corp, 6,284 passengers now run nationwide with more than 60 percent of them being high-speed.

For Spain, although the country received over 68 million tourists in 2015, tourist spending has not increased at the same level. In fact, it is down to year 2000 levels - in other words, 16 years ago, tourist spending per head was 1,100 euros, and now it is 741 euros. This also shows there is less money and less work.

Tourism in Spain, however, is still the big locomotive - producing 12% of the BIP. For many Spaniards, domestic travel has become quite popular again (and more affordable), showing an increase of 10% in 2015. Indeed, Spain has lot of to offer, and the prices for meals or accommodation are often cheaper than in neighboring countries which certainly is an important factor.

The trade show was also the stage for the signing of the commitment to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Global Compact entered into by various companies to drive forward the United Nations Agenda.

The action, entitled “Responsible Tourism: A Commitment by All,” included the signing of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, and of the 10 Principles of the Global Compact by companies from the industry during FITUR.

Furthermore, the World Tourism Organization and the Global Compact Network of Spain have developed a collaboration agreement to involve companies from the tourism industry in corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Statistics just released by UNWTO are reaching new highs, with arrivals growing by 4.4% in 2015 to reach a total 1.184 million. According to UNWTO, 50 million more tourists (overnight visitors) traveled to international destinations around the world last year, compared to 2014. It also indicates that international tourist arrivals in the Americas has grown by 9 million (+5%), reaching 191 million.

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Madrid: Tourism facts and figures on FITUR 2016
Photo © Elisabeth Lang

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