Key takeaways from Spain’s largest international tourism fair

Last week Ana and I attended the 40th edition of FITUR that took place in Madrid from the 22nd to the 26th of January. This year’s partner was Imagine your Korea and there was a beautiful stand and exhibition all around that country, among many others.

The event was spread across ten halls, starting with Africa and the Middle East, followed by the Americas, Europe, Spanish Promotion Boards and Organisations, Asia Pacific, Companies, Technology and Global Business, and finally Companies.

Our first couple of days were spent going from meeting to meeting, but we were able to visit the rest of the halls the following days. Apart from the exhibition made up of travel, hospitality and tourism companies, there were many other opportunities for networking in meeting points, cafeterias, and technical presentations.

We especially enjoyed the technical presentations that were organised in the Technology and Global Business section that looked at several topics: technology and the future under #techYfuturo, technology and business under #techYnegocio, technology and sustainability under #techYsostenibilidad, and technology and destination under #techYdestino.

At the technology and business thread (#techYnegocio), one of the highlights was the New actors. Opportunities or threats session, with representation from Alibaba Group and Alipay, Casual Hoteles, Cehat and Coolrooms.

Juan Carlos, the CEO of Casual Hotels, highlighted the importance of focusing on the end-customer and really understanding their needs through customer-centric innovation. For example, he mentioned that at their hotels, they always try to understand customer needs first and they start by making simple changes will make the guest’s life easier, such as having hair straighteners available in their rooms, as they know it can be challenging to travel with them, or having baby strollers and nappies available for families who travel with babies.

Another topic for discussion was the new payment options that are changing the industry, such as bitcoin payment, payment via facial recognition, Alipay, mobile phone payments, etc. Alba Ruiz, Senior Business Development Manager Spain & Portugal for Alibaba Group, mentioned how China is impacting the industry with their technological advancements and the benefits that tourism would have for Chinese travellers; from enabling them to use the same technologies they have in their home country, where facial recognition payments and phone payments are consolidated in China and they are very familiar with them.

Another of our highlights came from a #techYfuturo panel called Successful models of change for the travel sector, with participants from Iberia, Iberostar, Turismo Costa del Sol, LeadClic and WAM. Here, they highlighted some of the recent changes at their companies that have helped them to innovate and grow. For example, Iberia is enabling boarding through facial recognition in places such as Oviedo and Brussels, which is an extra step for the customisation journey and the self-serve approach that some companies are developing to make their customer’s lives easier through digitalisation. On the other hand, Iberostar mentioned the path they are taking with their “Wave of Change” initiative to promote sustainability and protect the oceans, as this is becoming increasingly more important to younger generations.

Some of our key takeaways from the event for the travel, tourism and hospitality sector are as follows:

  • Customer-centred approaches and specialisation are key and most companies in the sector are already working towards developing them with the help of the digitalization
  • Sustainability is becoming more important for companies, especially with the influence of younger generations
  • Creating more than a “stay” or a service for a client is essential; global travellers are seeking completely unique experiences
  • In the face of digital transformation, it is important that travel, tourism and hospitality organisations “think global” from a strategic and sustainability perspective – after all, we all share the same planet – whilst “acting local” to deliver highly personalised experiences that promote the local destinations and cultures

For more trends set to impact the travel, tourism and hospitality sector in the coming year, download our eBook “Globalisation and the future of travel” now.

We can’t wait for next year’s event already! 😊

If you attended FITUR this year, we’d love to hear your key takeaways. Simply comment below or follow us on social media to join the conversation using the hashtag #ultimateinsights.