Friday, September 22

Enter Fitur, the Kings and ‘Spanglish’ for free

It’s been a few years since Justo Sanz hasn’t been invited to Fitur. His restaurant in the Canillas neighborhood fed him every year, he assures, to the workers of the official Malaga exhibitor, so the free pass was guaranteed. Today, already retired, his contacts have failed him, and since he believes that access on the opening day of the fair, which costs 25 euros (only for professionals in the sector, in principle) is overpriced, he asks at the entrance to any of the swarm of journalists, officials and various businessmen who enter and leave the venue if they have one ticket left over. He’s not having any luck, but in the midday sun it’s not bad in Fitur, so don’t despair.

The international tourism fair in Madrid has recovered its pulse this year, after a modest 2021 due to Covid, and has opened with 600 exhibitors, still far from the 900 in 2020, before the epidemic was declared. At the start everything is hustle and bustle, because the arrival of the kings is anticipated, in a venue that is still relatively uncrowded before 11am. “Did they make you take out the tripod?”, asks a strange television camera operator to a colleague, while waiting in line for accreditation. The royal ride is sacred, indeed, and the media spares no resources.

The restrictions due to the coronavirus are still in force, on the other hand, and to enter Fitur you have to prove that you are not infected by PCR test or antigen test, or present your COVID passport. The vast majority (the Vox charges, no) opt for the latter, but that does not prevent the queues from lengthening. It is also necessary to wear a reinforced FFP2 mask at all times, although this is still Madrid; that is, if someone forgets and appears only with the surgical one, they are given one or they directly turn a blind eye.

Among the mogollón of reporters and public officials, he walks at a good pace through Hall 9, where the monarch, wife and minions will begin the tour, the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, who is not cheered as in the fair last year’s hotel industry but receives a “beautiful!” of some acquaintances. She laughs. The vice-president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juan Marín, approaches the entrance thinking that the king and queen are coming, but since they are still late, he takes another walk down the aisle with his companions.

The monarchy, safe in Fitur

If the monarchy is in danger, it will not be because of Fitur: when Felipe VI and Letizia finally advance, only elbows and mobile phones are seen in the air to immortalize the picture. King and queen go through the ‘stand’ of Galicia, where this year there is cheating due to the coronavirus and there is Xacobeo again, although it does not fit with the calendar. They greet the president of the Xunta, Alberto Núñez Feijóo. Immediately afterwards they turn to the Canary Islands, which has dared with the slogan “a volcano of thanks” and is already organizing routes to visit the laundry, as explained in the exhibitor. Then they change pavilions and stop at the Moroccan booth, which seems to have positive diplomatic connotations, after the tension of recent months with Spain. Only a few reckless or clueless people from pavilion 9 continue with the original program as if nothing had happened: it is a tasting panel for cheeses from Murcia, a protected designation of origin.

The director of the Spanish Office in Madrid, Toni Cantó, complained on Tuesday that the Catalan parliament “continued to pay ‘super salaries’ to former officials without working”, perhaps anticipating the arduous day that would come upon him if he decided to stop by Fitur. “Treat yourself” was the motto of the Andalusian expedition, which occupied an entire pavilion reserved for the autonomous communities. The expression means something similar to “treat yourself” and was more evocative than the direct “Benidorm. City and beaches [ciudad y playas]” of the Alicante town. It must be understood that there are many foreign visitors at a fair of this type and English is the lingua franca in the world of tourism, but extreme examples are given, such as, for example, that of a hotel management ‘software’ company that promoted its competencies in “revenue management” and summoned its potential clients: “Optimize your business mix; receives accurate forecasts”. You couldn’t call the police in the face of these linguistic excesses because there weren’t many officers available either; security was mainly in the hands of the Prosegur company, which made it possible to see a security guard ordering taxi traffic at the entrances by blowing energetically on a whistle.

The thirst for customers and business after the coronavirus drought pushed the designers of the exhibition spaces to imagine colorful claims. Under the Catalunya sign was the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa (both lost the championship with that car in the last race). Why? Because the Montmeló circuit is in the province “and it must have seemed like a cool claim to the ideologues,” said the woman who answered questions from visitors, laughing. In the Latin American pavilion there was a person dressed as a plastic duck, one of those in the bathtub, accompanied by young people with skimpy tops and floats, also ducks. They advertised a well-known nightclub in Cancun.

In one corner was the stand of the Plus Ultra airline, which served the opposition as a battering ram against the government on account of the public aid it received for the pandemic. “We have not noticed it, in fact, we have opened two new routes”, responded one of its managers. The modest desk at the Castellón Airport was unoccupied, like the infrastructure itself, but not abandoned, since the chair had a coat hanging from the back.

The European and Asian pavilions were a haven of peace in the midst of today’s serious geostrategic conflicts. Waiting for new clashes between NATO and Russia on Ukraine’s behalf, the Moscow tourist office distributed key rings. Azerbaijan had a greater presence than France, while Armenia had no official representative, unlike Syria. Israel and Palestine were conveniently far apart.

South Korea welcomed visitors by inviting them to an exercise video game in which participants had to move their arms and legs to make autumn leaves fall on typical ceramic vases, or so the instructions explained. “You have to be more dynamic.” You have to be more dynamic”, a young man from the organization politely encouraged in English and Spanish to a man who had dared to play but was not very fit. The non-explicit attraction of the Maldives, which is committed to elitist tourism, is to visit the country before it disappears under the sea, a victim of global warming. A round table on “sustainable tourism in the current situation” was planned for 4:30 p.m., one of the dozens of activities and forums that will take place until Sunday.