Pau Relat (Montcada i Reixac, Barcelona, 1968), a Pharmacy graduate with a Master’s degree in Business and Economics from IESE, CEO of the MAT Holding group (specialising in solutions for protecting crops, agricultural irrigation and water use and treatment), was appointed President of the Board of Administration of Fira de Barcelona last November, replacing the veteran Josep Lluís Bonet who had held the position since 2004. It was a handover between generations that runs parallel to the changes in technology, production, business and society.
– What does it mean to become the president of the Board of Administration of Fira de Barcelona?
It is an honour and satisfaction to be chosen as president of the Board of Administration of Fira, and I am grateful for the trust that institutions and colleagues have placed in me. It is obviously a huge responsibility to take over from Josep Lluís Bonet, who is a reference in the world of trade fairs and business. It is also highly motivating, and I am excited to be working for the institution, the productive economy and the country.
– What ideas do you bring to the presidency?
I want to reinforce the good work that Fira has been doing for the last 20 years, to help to move the strategic position forwards and to back up the work of the CEO, Constantí Serrallonga and the fantastic professional teams that Fira has created. I think we can all agree that Fira de Barcelona has shown itself able to handle this period of enormous economic, technological and social changes and come out ahead.
– How do you view the trade fair institution?
I know it well through my links to the General Council over many years, where representatives of business and the administration work together, and also as the president of the latest edition of the Iwater fair. I appreciate the importance and weight of Fira de Barcelona, and I believe everyone else who is in touch with this country and the city’s economy and society does the same. Fira really is a great driver of the economy that contributes to creating employment, synergies and opportunities in many sectors.
Competition between cities
– There is a lot of competition today between trade fairs and cities…
True, fairs and congresses have become very important poles of attraction for sectors and regions, and that is why we should continue working for Barcelona as we have done, all pulling in the same direction. I think a lot of great work has been done, and that our challenges today are the fruit of this strong rivalry, which is tied to city growth, new technological and environmental situations and the emergence of new economic sectors.
– Was the decision by Fira’s General Council last December to commission a strategic site plan a taste of these challenges and competition?
Fira’s Montjuïc and Gran Via sites are fantastic assets, each in their own way, but it is clear that we have to grow and move forward to face our competition, to attract ever larger and more demanding international congresses and fairs, and to respond to the growth of the fairs that are directly organized by Fira.
– And that calls for a general policy for spaces…
That’s right, the agreement with Barcelona City Council last October for Fira to take over the running of Barcelona’s International Convention Centre (CCIB) for a period of 25 years from November 2021 is a step in the same direction. It will have a very positive impact on the city because running all three sites means our institution can lead a coordinated strategy for fairs and congresses. Competition today is not so much between sites as between cities.
– Fira’s model of governance has been acknowledged as the main driver of its growth and success…
Absolutely. I can only repeat Josep Lluïs Bonet’s words when he said that Fira de Barcelona is a national project, and that the alliance between the public sector and business is a vital part of this, between public and private initiatives and a consensus among all the institutions and organizations. I think it is only fair to mention the leadership of Jaume Tomàs, the first president of Fira’s Board of Administration, who worked so hard when the institution was reorganized in 2000 to forge the agreements and understandings we still rely on. These understandings gave us fairs like the Mobile World Congress. This year we will be holding Itma, the great event for textile machinery; we will have the most important event for the audio-visual industry, ISE, from 2021 onwards, and we have made Barcelona the capital of smart cities. These are just a few examples. Taken together, it is obvious that they strengthen Barcelona’s international positioning as a reference for major international fairs and congresses.
– We are living in a time of great economic and social transformation which must influence what trade fairs do…
I think that Fira has responded well to these new demands and challenges, which means adapting to digital technology and at the same time helping companies and services in their digital transformation with events focusing on Internet, additive technology or smart cities, but also bringing the new reality of industry 4.0 to the more traditional fairs that deal with very important sectors of our economy. We have some great examples of it this year, with Automobile – in the centenary year of the traditionally popular Car Show – or Barcelona Building Contrumat, alongside the launch of new shows like Retail & Brand Experience World Congress, which aims to offer new ideas for retail in the new digital environment.
– And as always, international expansion has a key role
Our international reach shows the strength of our institution. Fira has always had an international outlook, and it has become a business platform for major events, which it either attracts or organizes itself directly. It has developed an expanding foreign business, which helps many companies to look abroad and to “export” its most firmly established fairs. We will undoubtedly continue to strengthen every aspect of our international work as a basic pillar of our strategy.
– A look at what the future holds?
I have every confidence in the future of Fira, its growth and its added value to business and society, knowledge transfer, its impact on the region and its role as leader. I am convinced that our future successes will be based on continuing to work together with strategy and consensus.