I had the privilege of visiting FITUR 2015 at IFEMA Madrid on behalf of VistaTEC last week. Fitur is a 5 day travel show and brands itself as a global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading trade fair for inbound and outbound Ibero American markets. Trade attendees topped 125,000 for this year’s event, a 4% increase on 2014, and importantly there was a 12% increase in the number International trade professionals.
The 2nd day heaving of doors was proof of this, which made “people side stepping” a common pastime on the Thursday afternoon. Spain is on the up at the moment and Fitur was another indicator that this growth is being led by the traditionally strong sectors such as Tourism.
The recently crowned King of Spain, Filipe VI, officially opened the event, a further indication of the extra effort and brand change that Spain has been making in the last 12 months. The Spanish government has been at pains to highlight positive growth internally and externally and to focus Spanish enterprises both large and small on external investment as a primary vehicle to economic recovery. Recent official statistics published just before Fitur show that 65 Million International tourists visited Spain in 2014, which represents 4 Million more than the previous year and places Spain firmly in 3rd position for numbers of tourist visitors worldwide (behind France and USA).
Fitur spans 8 large halls in the IFEMA arena which is located near Madrid´s newly renamed Barajas Adolfo Suárez airport. The zones were divided by Travel Businesses (2 halls), Country representation (Europe, Americas, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific), Spanish regional entities and tourism genres. The first 2 days were for trade visitors and the Friday through Sunday allowed the public to get a sense of destinations and activities. We enjoyed the trade days, there was a good blending between the business and consumer elements, all benefiting from a global showcase.
Conference within a conference
Fiturtech (travel technology sub conference) was a highlight for us and well attended. Speakers ranged from the General Manager of Facebook Spain (Irene Cano) to Bio-hacking innovator (Tim Cannon, Grindhouse Wetware) and featured topics in English and Spanish. Among topics covered included Mobility, data & search, personalization and engagement. Phocuswright (travel industry research authority) had an attentive audience and showed why the industry is growing at a phenomenal rate in Spain, they also predicted growth for 2015 and beyond.
All companies we met small, medium and large are looking to how they perform on a global stage and this event helps them showcase that as well as build partnerships to improve brand reach and global footprint. At VistaTEC we help brands do just that, for us it was encouraging to see that growth is clearly in progress. Commentary from many of the exhibitors was positive on both the numbers of business attendees and on meeting conference business objectives. It was also great to see some of our clients at Fitur.
Fitur had a good global representation in exhibitors and attendees and while it didn’t have the size and depth of ITB or WTM, you could feel the latin presence: large representations by Mexico, Portugal, Brazil, and the various hotel and travel brands. The Middle East presence was also strong and big global brands such as Expedia, Qatar airlines, Tripadvisor, Avis and Hertz were well represented.
The majority of Spanish tourists still holiday in Spain and this has been even more polarized since the economic slump in 2008.
It was no surprise to see the broad depth of Spanish regional representation taking up 3 halls. As well as gathering your body weight in tourist brochures, you could also sample many of the free foods and refreshments available; Pinchos from the north of Spain to pastries from the centre, Jamón Ibérico, Cured Tuna (mojama) from the south (Cádiz), were liberally downed with wines from La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Jerez and Sanlúcar other official wine regions (DO’s) — there was something for every stomach at Fitur. Of course, it was best to try those halls early to avoid the lunchtime rush.
· Good trade numbers, meaning business conversations were easy to have. Though get there early as numbers of visitors in the afternoon were high. Aside from trade focused activity, there were many things to keep visitors engaged, be it national dress, traditions, song and dance and some more out of this world experiences: Avis had a virtual machine headset which you wore behind the wheel of an Audi R8 Spyder which gave you a virtual roller coaster experience, which was well worth 5 minutes.
Language was a key topic at Fitur with many of the companies we met challenged with having content and front of house supporting their customer’s native tongue. Most companies supported Spanish and/or English but did not allow for non-native English speakers. How you manage this requirement with your content needs both strategic and tactical planning. VistaTEC supports travel companies on this journey, this topic will be addressed in detail in a future article.
Spain laid their cards on the table at Fitur, a well-organized growth plan with all regions working toward a common goal: grow beyond 65 million travellers and get to €24B in revenues by 2016.
Fitur 2015 had a good mix of different nationalities and cultures and emphasised the importance of globalization, language and culture when communicating. This for me was represented by the various guises of Carnival at Fitur, which while using the same name for a Latin inspired party, the actual Carnival festival remains quite distinct in each country.
This perhaps sums up what you will get at Fitur, a colourful mix of Iberian and Latin fair with plenty to keep the interest for travel business executives and travel consumers.
As if an excuse was needed, it makes a trip to the Spanish capital even more worthwhile.
Perhaps I’ll see you there next year!