CONSTANTÍ SERRALLONGA

Spain 2020 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

Founded as a consortium between the government of Catalonia and the chamber of commerce, Fira de Barcelona has successfully positioned Barcelona as an important player in the global MICE industry.

Fira de Barcelona was founded in 1932 as a consortium between the government of Catalonia and the chamber of commerce. What was the idea behind its inception?

The idea was to bring together different institutions that collectively intended to position Barcelona as an important player in the global MICE industry. At present, we manage Fira as a private company since we have a board comprised of businesspeople. In 2000, politicians chose a model of management based on private companies. Fira's shareholders are the Barcelona City Council, the government of Catalonia, and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, which together constitute the assembly that appoints nine board members. What improvements can be made to further consolidate Barecelona's position as a leader in the global MICE industry? There is always room for improvement. We will start managing the CCIB from 2021 onward, which is an important venue owned by the city council. Besides, we are enlarging our Gran Via Venue. As result, we will manage the three largest venues in Barcelona and its metropolitan area: Gran Via in L'Hospitalet, the historical Montjuïc in Barcelona's city center, and CCIB in the new economic area near the Besòs.

Fira de Barcelona now manages 400,000sqm. With the addition of CCIB and incorporation of its spaces in 2021, what are your goals and targets?

Those venues are complementary. Gran Via hosts corporate events that are customized to the needs of clients. For example, a large SAP event will be held there. Gran Via targets big companies that need large spaces tailored to their needs. Montjuïc is the historical venue where we host B2B and B2C events such as the Manga Barcelona comic convention, educational fairs, and the Valmont Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week. CCIB is different; it is perfect for congresses and corporate events. Beyond that, we are now planning to expand the Gran Via venue. We will build a new hall by 2024 that will offer an additional 60,000sqm. It will then become one of the most important venues in Europe. Since CCIB has about 100,000sqm, collectively, all the venues managed by Fira will boast around 500,000sqm.

How do you manage to attract companies to hold their corporate events and congresses in your venues?

If we can organize the Mobile World Congress, as we have done, we can host any event. We are an organization with the experience and capacity to host large conventions. In 2021, we will host ISE, the most important event in Europe focused on the audiovisual industry. We have been in talks with ISE for a decade to get it to relocate to Barcelona. Our commercial team explains the city, the venue, and our capacity to manage everything they need.

How do you make yourselves known in other markets?

We hold events abroad for different reasons. One of our most successfully events was the Smart City Expo. After seeing its success, other cities asked us to hold similar events. This strengthens our corporate brand while supporting the Barcelona brand. Second, the logic of being abroad responds to commercial opportunities. For example, we will organize a swimming pool industry event in Mexico in 2020. Third, when organizing events in Cuba for example, we are attracting companies from Europe to Cuba. Catalan, Spanish, and European companies can seek opportunities in Cuba through the events that we host there.

What are your main challenges and opportunities for 2020?

We will once again host the Mobile World Congress. Furthermore, we will launch new events such as the Barcelona Wine Week. Each year, we identify sectors which can get a boost from hosting an event. We will also host the Alimentaria event in April, one of the leading events in Europe for the food and beverage industry. In 2021, we will also host ISE and Seafood. In 2015, the turnover of FIRA was EUR150 million, but in 2019 it was more than EUR215 million. Our goal for 2020 is to consolidate this growth.