MADRID, Spain – The 31st edition of the International Tourism Trade Fair, FITUR, closed on January 23, confirming the trend towards recovery in the industry and with results in line with the data on growth provided by the World Tourism Organization, which in 2010 registered a 6.7% increase in international travel.
In this context, FITUR 2011 maintained participation rates with respect to those of the previous edition, with the presence of 10,434 companies from 166 countries and/or regions. As for attendance figures, there were 209,260 visitors between tourism professionals and the general public coming to FITUR in order to promote their tourism businesses or to find out about new deals and destinations for their next vacations. Among the participation figures of note was the presence of 7,726 journalists from 59 countries, a turnout that demonstrates the importance of FITUR as the first event of the year on the international circuit of tourism sector fairs and its key role as a platform for the media to become aware of the latest tourism-related developments.
The 2011 edition was marked by the return of Iberia and its exhibition space, the leading airline for the Spanish and Latin American markets, which participated with its partner British Airways while also promoting the fair by assuming the chairmanship of the FITUR Organizing Committee. In addition to the airline, returning were other major companies in the sector such as Accor, Amadeus, and National ATESA, just to name a few. The return of these firms contributed, among other factors, to the 3% boost in the business area, growth that has enhanced the trade fair’s standing and professional clout.
FITUR’s capacity to act as a commercial platform and the highly-professional profile of its visitors open new opportunities for key players in the tourism business. “Our assessment of the fair is positive. In fact, it exceeded our expectations. After two years away as exhibitors, we hoped to arrange a number of professional meetings similar to 2008, and we were pleasantly surprised, as we beat those figures by 35%. Besides the intense activity at our stand, we detected attendance at the fair by professionals with very clear goals, well-defined agendas, and who were definitely willing to make the most of their visits,” commented Iñigo García-Aranda, marketing director for Amadeus Spain. Meanwhile, Antonio Catalan, president and founder of AC Hotels, stressed the capacity of the event as a framework for the promotion and presentation of new developments, “At AC Hotels we are very pleased with our participation at this edition of FITUR, which we chose as the setting for the official presentation of our agreement with Marriott International and our all new AC Hotels by Marriott brand, which will begin operating as such in May of this year. We are especially optimistic about this year, because we see very strong growth opportunities for our new brand, and we are very excited about our plans for growth and international expansion.”
Other businesspeople also confirmed the usefulness of FITUR for their companies, such as José María Belaunde, managing partner of Ruralka: “Ruralka’s visibility at FITUR is increasing year after year, as a growing influx of customers and potential users come to our stand looking for more information or forms of collaboration. Next year we’ll be back at FITUR because it represents an ideal showcase for a company like Ruralka, as it is the ideal environment to physically interact with the public, to reconnect with our customers, and to present our project and its developments to both the press and our professional colleagues. It is also an ideal event to spot trends, learn about new technologies, and open new channels.”
PROMOTION AMONG PROFESSIONALS AND THE PUBLIC
Like Ruralka, according to polls conducted after the fair, many other exhibitors have already expressed their intention to attend the 2012 edition: 93.4% of the participants. This willingness endorses the event’s success for yet another year, validating its position as a leader on the international tourism fair circuit and an undisputed gateway connecting the Latin American and European markets. In short, a fundamental forum to promote both destinations to the public and to establish fruitful relations that result in commercial exchanges. “FITUR is and has been for years the most important tourism event for us. We have increased our stand’s square footage throughout this time to present Argentina and its services and destinations in the best way possible. Fitur is essential for us, as it continues to attract not only large numbers of visitors, but also the world’s most important companies and destinations,” said Argentina’s Tourism Minister Carlos Enrique Meyer.
At the 2011 edition, a series of initiatives were put in place to reflect the tourism industry’s dynamism and FITUR’s ability to respond to the new needs arising in the sector. With this objective, FITUR LGBT was organized, a section dedicated to programs aimed at lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals, one of the markets with the greatest potential for growth. The result of this first meeting was successful for participants. “The experience has been very positive with regards to our goals: positioning our destination, projecting our image to marketers, and media positioning to generate awareness of the destination among potential customers. These have been covered,” said Raul Cabrera, Head of Trade Promotion for the Fuerteventura Tourism Board.
A MEETING POINT AND BUSINESS FORUM
Also, 2011 also saw the opening of the 1st FITUR B2B Workshop, an event that aims to serve as a meeting place to promote networking between professionals and business exchanges. In total, in just one morning, 360 meetings were scheduled between international buyers and exhibitors. The promotion of B2B meetings was also promoted by FITUR MEETINGS & EVENTS which, during one working day, brought together 115 Spanish suppliers and 68 international buyers from 30 countries. In total, 1,573 appointments were set in 56% of cases featuring interest expressed by both buyers and sellers, evidencing the great potential of these encounters to lead to fruitful relationships for both.
In addition to these programs, in this 31st edition of FITUR, other initiatives were brought back, which had already achieved widespread acclaim last year. These efforts were designed to actively contribute to making tourism a driving force behind the development of disadvantaged areas, and to implement a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly kind of tourism. In this context, for the second consecutive year, INVESTOUR was held, organized by FITUR, Casa Africa, and the UNWTO to promote contacts between qualified Spanish investors and African tourism agents. At these B2B meetings, projects were presented from 33 African countries supporting international partnerships to build a model of sustainable tourism. “INVESTOUR is an initiative to help develop the tourism sector in Africa. We also believe that it is important for Spanish businesspeople to diversify and to have among their tourism products options featuring the kind of quality and exclusivity offered by many places on this continent, so we offer this meeting forum to promote partnerships, especially by connecting private and public operators in a setting like FITUR, which also allows the agenda to be open to meetings with professionals every day of the Fair,” noted Luis Padilla Macabeo, Secretary General of Casa Africa.
Without any doubt, also important at FITUR 2011 was the tourism industry’s commitment to the environment, illustrated by, among other features, the event’s FITUR GREEN section, which aims to raise awareness and promote the implementation of solutions aimed at energy efficiency, sustainability, and cost optimization, factors that also benefit the end user.
Another program that seeks to enhance tourism competitiveness, and which attracts more and more people at every edition, is FITURTECH. The forum, organized in collaboration with the Hotel Technology Institute (HTI), indicates the fair’s aspiration for professionals to obtain maximum benefits from the use of new technologies for their businesses. Organizers say that this interest is growing at each edition, which also reveals a rising trend for professionals to “listen to the views of successful colleagues who are doing things differently.” The 2011 seminars focused on the analysis of innovation and mobility in 21st-century tourism and attracted more than 1,000 people to the FITURTECH room, as confirmed by Alvaro Carrillo de Albornoz, General Director of HTI: “There were more people every day and, above all, a different feeling. We have already bottomed out, and now all the comments are focused on future growth this year to win back customers and profitability and to grow. And that’s exciting.”
FOR THE FUTURE OF THE SECTOR
In addition to presenting suppliers and new developments, promoting business meetings between professionals and training, FITUR also acted to promote research in the sector as a means to seek excellence in the marketplace. To this end, 17 years ago, the FITUR Jorge Vila Fradera Prize was established, which this year saw a substantial increase in the number of submissions, which totaled 14. The winner was “An analysis of wine tourism in Spain: the effects of certified regional wines on the choice of destinations,” by María del Mar Gómez Rico. This work of research explores the influence of Spanish “DO” labels and reveals tourists’ interest in increasingly specialized products. “The 2011 FITUR/Vila Fradera Prize represents a seal of guaranteed quality in research on tourism in Spain and, as such, validates the study. Therefore, this award will bring added value to my research work in the wine tourism sector,” concluded María del Mar Gómez Rico, author of the selected study.
THE PUBLIC: IN THE SPOTLIGHT LIKE NEVER BEFORE
In the days devoted to the general public, FITUR 2011 sought to respond to a clear demand from tourists: to be ever more in command of their travels, their preparation, their activities… To this end, the traditional Peoples of the World Folk Festival became the 1st Interactive Folklore Marathon, where attendees were able to learn salsa with five-time world champions from Colombia; discover the secrets of embroidery used in Galicia to decorate traditional garb; or find out about the angklung, Indonesian instruments made of bamboo. At this event, the audience was able to share the stage with the experts. “It was a unique opportunity to dance with the world salsa champions. An unforgettable experience that FITUR gave us,” said Vera Villegas thankfully, one of the participants in the salsa seminar Folkloreart With Us.
The public was also at center stage for the activities organized in collaboration with the travel network minube.com, where attendees were able to find out about new destinations at FITUR and share their experiences traveling the world, as recalled Raul Jimenez, CEO and founder of Minube.com: “The Travelers’ Meetup, drawing about 1,000 people, was a really well-attended event at which, in addition, participants assured us they had a great time. Meanwhile, the Travelers’ Gymkhana and the Speaker’s Corner managed to shine a light on travelers, while information points guided visitors towards the much more segmented exhibitors. Above all, I think it has helped the traveler to feel important and to enjoy what he loves: travel. So, our objectives have been amply fulfilled.”
Participation by visitors was also reflected in the interaction on social networks where, only on Facebook, FITUR attracted nearly 10,300 fans, in addition to those who joined in on Twitter, Linked In, and those commenting on the FITUR blog. Not to mention the people who checked out videos and photographs of the fair on Flickr and YouTube.
The positive impressions transmitted by representatives from different areas of the fair, along with the satisfaction expressed by professionals and the public, allow those involved to look forward with enthusiasm and excitement to the next edition of FITUR, to be held between January 18-22, 2012.