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Interview with Luis Gallego, Chairman of IBERIA and the FITUR Organising Committee

Luis Gallego explains what air travel has contributed to the development of tourism over the last 40 years and reveals why Spain continues to be among the top two or three world leaders in the sector. He also looks ahead to IBERIA’s future plans and reaffirms company’s commitment to FITUR.

13 Jan 2020

FITUR celebrates its 40th edition in 2020. What’s your view of IBERIA’s presence at this fair over the years?

Our presence at FITUR has always been very a positive experience. During these 40 years, Iberia has always been very keen to keep up its commitment to FITUR and we have always considered the fair to be a fantastic meeting point for the whole industry. It’s the leading event for tourism in Spain and also, I believe, for regions such as Latin America.

FITUR is a great opportunity for Iberia to show trade visitors and customers our new products each year. The Fair is a place where we sign agreements that we’ve been negotiating over the previous year, and we also take advantage of FITUR to acknowledge the work of the many travel agencies, companies and tour operators with whom we work closely.

How does a means of transport such as air travel contribute to the development of tourism?

Air travel’s contribution to the development of tourism has been very relevant; one only has to look at the figures for tourist arrivals in Spain over these 40 years of FITUR. In the 1980s, there were around 38 million people, but by the end of the 1990s —when air transport was liberalised— that figure had almost doubled to over 74 million visitors, and this year we’ve again reached impressive figures.

In a market as competitive as tourism, with so many countries doing such brilliant promotion work, that Spain has been able to maintain its position among the top two or three world leaders has much to do with all the efforts being made by public and private sectors. But also with Spain’s excellent connections to the rest of the world, from Latin America to Asia to Europe, and that is, to a great extent, the contribution of the airlines that operate here.

What are IBERIA’s plans for the next few years?

Our main objective has always been to make our business sustainable, in every way: sustainable economically, because that is what will allow us to continue growing, to be an increasingly global company, but also to contribute to the development of tourism and, in general, to Spain’s economy. To achieve that, we’re going to use, among other things, innovation and the latest available technology, to improve the experience for our customers and also to improve efficiency.

And our business must also be sustainable environmentally. Sustainability is the biggest and most important challenge we face, simply because future generations depend on it. Sustainability isn’t a cosmetic feature. I want to work in a company that really cares about reducing the impact of its operations and being more sustainable, and that’s also one of the fastest growing demands by the tourism industry.

In that respect, what sustainability-related actions is IBERIA carrying out?

The truth is that climate change is moving so quickly that, in a very short time, sustainability has gone from being a future dream to becoming an urgent priority, requiring commitment and joint action by governments, the private sector and ordinary people.

Our group, IAG, has positioned itself at the forefront of the aviation sector by committing itself to achieving zero net CO2 emissions by 2050, in line with the Global Compact goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5°C.

Fulfilling this commitment already means making a strong investment in fleet renewal, which will continue until 2050. It also means orienting our strategy towards development and distribution of non-fossil fuels in order to achieve a truly viable alternative for aviation. And that all the companies of the Group —and the whole aviation sector— participate in Corsia, the Carbon Offsetting Scheme and many other initiatives that we are already carrying out in our daily operations: from switching to electric vehicles, reducing weight in planes and progressively eliminating plastics, which will help us achieve the objective of zero net emissions in 2050 and, above all, to be more sustainable and look to the future with more optimism.

As well as chairman of Iberia, you also chair the FITUR Organising Committee. In your opinion, what’s the role of this Fair in the tourism industry?

Over these 40 years of FITUR, I believe that the Fair has contributed, above all, to the internationalisation of Spain as a tourist destination, but above all of the industry itself, contributing to its professionalisation and the adoption of best practices that have served as an example for other markets.

Year after year, FITUR has been a showcase for trends that have gone on to be implemented across the industry. If there is one business in which Spain has been able to reinvent itself, to adapt to new technologies, and move into new markets and segments and, through all that, to overcome economic crises, it has been tourism.

There’s still a lot to do, especially in terms of promotion in some new markets, but I’m sure that FITUR will continue to be that meeting point, that reference point that shows us the way forward.