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FITUR international tourism trade fair in full swing
ONE of Europe's largest tourism industry trade fairs, FITUR, opened its doors on Monday in Madrid, was officially opened by the King and Queen yesterday (Wednesday) and will be opened a third time – to the general public – on Saturday and Sunday.
Between Monday and Friday, only members of the travel industry and public authorities are allowed in, and the first two days are relatively informal until the Monarchs cut the red tape on day three.
FITUR is the one trade fair of the year that no local council or regional government is willing to miss or cuts out of their travelling or advertising budget – it is probably one of the world's most famous and is an event which sees thousands of deals struck between tour operators, travel agencies and tourism authorities.
Every region in Spain has its own stand, and within these, most towns, villages and cities hold a smaller stall, each of them pushing their greatest attractions in a bid to drum up more holidaymakers.
Spain's coastal regions rarely bother promoting their beaches, given that these are what the bulk of foreign tourists travel to the country for anyway – although some smaller towns whose holidaymakers are nearly all Spanish often do so in a bid to draw in foreign visitors.
Established beach destinations have been promoting their other attractions at FITUR for the past few years to convince holidaymakers that, even without the weather and the sunbathing, they are still great places for an annual break.
This is especially true of coastal Andalucía, the Comunidad Valenciana and the islands, where numerous municipalities live largely off holidaymakers and actively try to keep tourism alive outside the summer season.
As well as Spain's own stands, about half to two-thirds of the world's countries at any one time set up booths at FITUR and international agreements between industry professionals and tourist boards are struck every few minutes.
King Felipe VI and his wife, Queen Letizia, entered the building yesterday via the north face – the one part where striking taxi drivers had not blocked off the entrance – and joined around 40 national tourism ministers on their walk around the stands.
The Monarchs visited the Meliá Hotel group and Air Europa stands, as well as those of various countries and, of course, Spain.
Madrid's regional president Ángel Garrido joined them during their visit, showing them the stand for the capital, which is focused this year on the 200th anniversary of its world-famous El Prado art museum.
Cantabria's section features a recreation of life on Mars in a cave in the village of Arredondo.
This year, FITUR's international partner is the Dominican Republic, whose stand organisers gave Queen Letizia a pair of earrings designed specially for her made with amber and larimar, the latter being a pastel-coloured stone only found in the Caribbean nation, and presented King Felipe with a set of gold and amber cufflinks.
Royal visits included the stands for Columbia, Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, and to the Iran booth where they were greeted with a traditional dance show.
This year's FITUR hosts 886 country and regional stands and 10,487 trade stalls, all covering a total of 165 countries.
These figures show it has expanded by 8.3% on 2018, which was a record year for the tourism fair at Madrid's IFEMA exhibition centre.
Members of the public will be allowed to enter and wander round the stands on Saturday and Sunday, and the fair will close for another year on Sunday night.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia are pictured above with, among others, Ángel Garrido, Parliamentary chairwoman Ana Pastor, Spain's minister of industry, trade and tourism Reyes Maroto, tourism minister for the Dominican Republic Francisco Javier García, and regional presidents Emiliano García-Page (Castilla-La Mancha), Javier Fernández (Asturias), Francina Armengol (Balearic Islands), and Fernando Clavijo (Canary Islands).
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