The CEO of Fira de Barcelona, Constantí Serrallonga, looks back at the institution’s activity over the first six months of 2019, when a large part of the fairs and congresses have already taken place at the Gran Via and Montjuïc sites and in cities in other countries around the world where the fair organization has collaborated in other events.
– How would you judge the first six months of 2019 from the point of view of the trade fair business?
I think it can only be described as a success. We have held very important events, with a huge impact on our industrial sector and the economy of the country as a whole. At the same time, we have set up shows and initiatives in response to new needs and demands.
– I assume you are thinking of the new Retail & Brand Experience World Congress…
That’s right, I see it as Fira’s contribution to the new commercial landscape, and it is logical that it should happen in Barcelona, which has always been a city with business initiative, a city of shops that care deeply about customer relations. The scenery is changing now with the emergence of new technologies, and this is a step in the direction of seeing how we can align excellent customer relations with the demands of technology and the role of brands. We are satisfied with the first edition, which has opened up interesting prospects for the future.
Major events, more space
– These months also saw you hosting the Automobile Barcelona show and other major events.
Automobile Barcelona this year focused on two aspects: first of all there was the celebration of a historic landmark, its centenary edition, and then there was the emphasis on connected, smart and sustainable vehicles. It was interesting as a meeting of the past with a future that has already arrived. As always, it was a success, because the car industry has a long tradition of close association with Barcelona. It is an emotional bond, but it also comes from the vital importance of the sector in the manufacturing industry of Barcelona and its metropolitan area.
– There has also been the Mobile World Congress and ITMA, which seem to test the capacity of the facilities and form part of Fira’s plans to increase its exhibition space…
Fira de Barcelona has made a strategic bid to expand and update its facilities. It has to grow to be more competitive, and to respond to the demands of our clients. This will allow us to continue to generate new opportunities for Barcelona and the country. The plan has the backing of the institutions that form part of the Fira consortium, namely Barcelona City Council, the Generalitat de Catalunya and Chamber of Commerce, and the support of all the institutions involved in Fira 2000, which is the company responsible for building and financing the Gran Via site: The City Council of l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the Diputació de Barcelona and the Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona. Having said that, I would like to emphasise the success and the importance of holding these two major events that are the Mobile World Congress, a global benchmark for the mobile communications ecosystem, and ITMA, the great fair for textile machinery.
– How does this strategic decision lead to an increase in exhibition space?
The Gran Via site has a very high level of occupation and our plan to continue as a leading international venue requires us to expand its capacity by building a new extension on land adjoining the current facilities. It will add another 60,000 m2, taking us to a total of 300,000 m2 of exhibition space. This addition will reinforce our position as one of the world’s most important trade fairs in terms of its size, but also functionality, quality, innovation and sustainability. This expansion is expected to be ready in 2023, so that we can take on new challenges, new expansions and new opportunities.
– There are also plans to reshape Montjuïc…
Our “Univers Montjuïc” project is still in the planning stage and we are looking at how to adapt the current space to the demands of trade fairs in the 21st century, with functional, flexible and sustainable installations suitable for fairs, but also for cultural and social activities. The horizon for completion is 2029, to coincide with the centenary of the Universal Exhibition of 1929.
Digital and global
– Are all the fairs now oriented towards digitalization and industry 4.0?
All companies and sectors are aware that digital and technological transformation is a fact that must be faced. There is also the demand for sustainability. Fira has fairs that achieve a balance between the present and future of our industrial and manufacturing sectors, ensuring that segments that are seen as traditional can continue to move forwards. Only last week we held events such as Construmat and Graphispag, specialists in the building sector and graphics industry, respectively, which have a long history with Fira and are in transformation to adapt their sectors to the same demands and the social and economic context.
– There are all kinds of shows and events going on until the end of the year…
That’s right, we are holding fairs and congresses like IoT Solutions World Congress and Smart City Expo World Congress, which are international benchmarks in the fields of technology, digitalization and smart cities. Nor should we overlook other significant events, like Industry, Saló Nàutic, Caravaning and Piscina & Wellness Barcelona, or proposals such as the Fòrum Gastronòmic. A trade fair like that of Barcelona reflects the real diversity of its society, its companies, its entrepreneurial spirit…
– Barcelona today moves in a world where cities are the main actors, but where there is a lot of competition…
Barcelona is a global city that has to offer global solutions, to act with consensus and adopt positions that are widely shared with institutions and society. When it comes to trade fairs, I believe that holding major industrial and technological events and important meetings for medical and technology companies makes a vital contribution to the city’s productive sectors, creates public and social benefits and boosts its image and reputation for innovation. Barcelona has a leading position in many sectors (I would say in such diverse areas as technological entrepreneurship, medicine, food, supercomputing, fashion and publishing) which are all supported by Fira, which contributes in this way to generate new opportunities.