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40 years of FITUR at the service of the tourism industry

In its next edition, FITUR, the International Tourism Fair organised by IFEMA, will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Four decades that have seen the development of the Spanish tourism industry, one of the most competitive worldwide, as well as its main milestones and events. Along with this expansion, FITUR has experienced extraordinary growth, it has become specialised, professionalised and more international. Today it is the most complete reference in connecting the Latin American market with the rest of the world, and it is one of the leading trade fairs in the global tourism sector. Since then, Spain has become the second worldwide destination and income, with 82.6 million international tourists in 2018, who spent almost €90 billion in our country. Proof of the huge increase in tourism in Spain is that the growth in the number of visitors has increased in recent years, by 43.7% since 2012.

18 Jul 2019

In 1981 FITUR came about as a platform for a touristic Spain that began to open up to the world. And since then, in the following four decades, it has always been at the service of the tourism industry. The Spanish tourism sector, considered today as the most competitive in the world, has led our country to become the second destination in arrivals of international tourists and in income from tourism, and its fair, FITUR, has progressively acted as the promoter of the Spanish and worldwide industry.

In these 40 years, FITUR has evolved alongside the development of the Spanish tourism industry. The decades of the eighties saw the creation and consolidation of the fair, while the tourism sector went through a moment of crisis and subsequent consolidation. The first edition of the event, in 1981, already had the backing of the entire sector, Public Offices, WTO, Tourism Board, CEOE, etc., and the following year it was inaugurated by the King and Queen of Spain. This decade saw events such as the incorporation in 1980 of the Tourism Board of the CEOE and the hotel association Zontur; the creation in 1984 of Inprotur (in 1990 it became Turespaña); and the declaration in 1988 of the Camino de Santiago as “First European Cultural Itinerary”.

In 1990 Spain was already in third place worldwide for arrivals of international tourists. And FITUR had gone from 1,500 exhibitor companies from 37 countries and 3,000 trade visitors in 1981, to a total of 3,257 companies from 134 countries and 30,032 trade visitors in 1990.

  • Specialisation in the 90s

The nineties saw the expansion and specialisation of FITUR, while the industry went through it second tourism boom. In 1992 the fair was held in the new IFEMA trade fair facilities; in 1994 FITUR Active was created, and in 2000 FITUR Congresses and the first FITUR Tribuna Jorge Vila Fradera awards were given. That same decade the sector recorded milestones such as the Schengen Agreement, in 1995; in 1996 the Official Tourism Degree was added to the University; in 1998 Spain was in second place worldwide regarding reception of visitors, with over 40 million international arrivals, and in 2000 the Comprehensive Plan for Spanish Tourism Quality (PICTE) was approved and the Spanish Institute for Tourism Quality (ICTE) was created. In the year 2000, FITUR had 7,933 exhibiting companies from 170 countries and 71.331 trade visitors.

Between 2001 and 2008 FITUR focused on internationalisation and technology, while the tourism sector began to face innovation and sustainability as the challenges of the new century. Among the trade fair's milestones are 31 new official participations and the development of new applications on the FITUR website: Meeting point for professionals (PEP); Online pre-registration; appointment manager; FITUR APP and the online newsletter FITURNEWS. Meanwhile, the sector was facing events such as the opening of OETS in Peking, Singapore, Moscow and Warsaw; the creation in 2002 of the Alliance for Excellency in Tourism (Exceltur); and the transformation of the WTO into a specialised UN entity. Spain was still in the lead regarding vacations, with over 55 million arrivals, in second place regarding arrivals and income, and Spain’s new Tourism website was presented: spain.info. In 2008, FITUR had 13,530 exhibiting companies from 170 countries and 157.299 trade visitors.  

  • Internationalisation and sustainability

  • The period between 2009 and 2018 saw the crisis, but also the beginning of the transformation of the sector, backed by technology and with a focus on sustainability. This is a period where FITUR also progressed firmly in areas such as B2B, and the creation, in 2018, of the B2B area specialising in convention tourism, FITUR MICE; new specialisation areas, such as LGBT, Health, Know-How & Export, Festivals, and technology, in its Fiturtechy sections (Future, Sustainability, Business, Destination) as well as 5G applications to create the “Augmented Fair” prototype, developed by the first R+D laboratory, IFEMA LAB, along with Telefónica, IMDEA and Ericsson. Meanwhile, there were other milestones, such as the creation of the first Exceltur Forum in 2012; SEGITTUR's promotion of FITUR Know-How & Export in 2013, and ITH's promotion of Fiturtechy.

    Between 2015 and 2017 Spain was recognised by the World Economic Forum as the country with the most competitive tourism sector, and in 2017 the WTO declared the International Sustainable Tourism Year, with FITUR as its launchpad.

    During the last two years FITUR has continued to go further in depth on the concepts of diversification and sustainability, and working on the internationalisation of the fair.  Given its aim to integrate new market niches that represent growth and expansion for the tourism industry, it has developed the new monographic sections FITUR FESTIVALS and FITUR CINEMA, dedicated to connecting the tourism industry with music and movies, respectively. It also created the FITUR NEXT Observatory, which over the next three years will be the platform for identifying, analysing and publicising those tourism models that generate a positive impact on visitor experiences, the lives of residents, development of the destinations and balance of the planet. In 2019 the International Tourism Far held its most international edition, with 10,487 companies from 165 countries and over 253,000 participants (142.642 trade visitors).