The president of Ifema estimates that the Madrid fairgrounds closed 2021 around the balance of results and will increase its income by more than 30% in 2022
At the end of March or April, the executive will present a new roadmap based on digitization, internationalization and business diversification
José Vicente de los Mozos (Sao Paulo, 1962) assumed the presidency of the Ifema executive committee in June 2020, which added to his responsibilities as director of manufacturing and logistics of the Renault group, president of its Spanish subsidiary and leader of the Anfac employers’ association. (position that has left this Wednesday). The executive has launched a new strategy so that the Madrid fairgrounds emerge stronger from the pandemic, in which collaborations with its counterpart in Barcelona are possible.
How is the relationship between Ifema and the Fira de Barcelona?
Very good. When I got here they asked me for two things. One, a car show. There is no place. In fact, as president of Anfac, I have promoted the Automobile in Barcelona. And secondly, that it brought me the Mobile World Congress. I’m not interested either. Barcelona is Spain. My relationship with the president of the Fira is very good and if we find synergies and things to do together, we will do them. I talk to him and we have the same opinion. But the business opportunities have to be given. After the pandemic we will be able to move forward. Now it is very complex, everything is very variable. But for me Barcelona is not a competitor. Barcelona and Madrid together at some point we can organize an event worldwide.
To what extent has ómicron impacted the recovery of the fairs and congresses sector?
Ifema was the first venue to launch fairs in Europe during the pandemic, in March 2021, thanks to the support of the different fair sectors; the unification of the different administrations: central, autonomous government and City Council; and because we have developed security protocols that we have shown allow events to be held in this environment. Nobody thought last year that Fitur would be done and we did it and it was a success. With the arrival of omicron, we have prepared two scenarios for 2022: one of progress and the other ‘black’, because the problem that the pandemic is showing us is that there is a ‘stop and go’. You have to be very flexible in making decisions. But the context now is not the same as it was ten months ago, when we did Fitur. Now the level of vaccination is high and society has learned to live with the virus. People know that in the end life goes on and we have to live, taking the necessary precautions and protocols. We have shown, as the Community of Madrid does, that it is possible to protect health, but at the same time continue with our lives, continue holding events and maintaining the economy.
After the 20.7 million losses in 2020, did Ifema return to profit in 2021?
Last year was very complex because the first quarter was stopped. However, the general management carried out a good management. I await the result of the auditors, but we will not be very far from the ‘break even’ (balance), I do not know if it is above or below. This year we want to get closer to the number of fairs in 2019, there will be close to a hundred, and the turnover may increase by more than 30%. But I want to be cautious, because I don’t know if there is going to be a seventh or eighth or ninth wave. The important thing is to set a path, a vision, and be flexible.
When will Ifema return to its pre-pandemic situation?
We will never return to 2019 because tomorrow’s Ifema will be different. The base of the business will continue to be the fairs, but we have learned that we must diversify to protect ourselves from the different crises. The biggest lesson of the pandemic is that we have to survive. We have defined a vision of where we want to go: digitization, internationalization and new businesses. We are defining the roadmap for this strategic plan for the next three to five years, which I will be able to present at the end of March or April.
How is such a face-to-face sector digitized?
The first experience was Fruit Attraction, in October 2020. We made a homemade digital platform, but we realized that 500 companies had connected and it gave us very good results. That made the whole team stick with me. Today all our events are hybrid. We are developing our own platform with Barrabés.
And in this context, does the project to expand the physical space still make sense, with a budget of 180 million euros until 2025?
For now it is stopped because there is no place. But if Ifema continues to evolve into a world benchmark and we attract events like those in Shanghai or Las Vegas, we will need surface area. For events of 250,000-300,000 square meters we do not have space. When the time comes we will analyze it, but I do not see it doing the extension before.
How will your diversification be?
We have entered the entertainment world and it is being a success. In the coming months we will make a big announcement in that regard. We are also developing new businesses, such as the Global Mobility Call, a world reference event in sustainable mobility that we have presented in Paris and Dubai, or the World Dog Show. At Fitur we are going to present Helixa, the first metaverse at a fair. In addition, the large companies in this country are very open to doing things with Ifema.
How is a fairground internationalized?
Unlike others, our events are Ifema branded and we do not depend on a foreign brand. We already do fairs in Colombia, Chile or Portugal. Latin America has been very affected by the pandemic and I think that the digital tools we have can help to deploy some of the fairs there, adapted to the Latin American context. I would also like to start with Morocco. It takes time, company transformations are not done in two months.
From what you are seeing in Fitur, what prospects does tourism have this year?
People want to travel. The problem is that when omicron arrives, or whatever may arrive tomorrow, it suddenly stops you. If the situation evolves like in South Africa, where in two months it fell by 80%, it would be phenomenal and I think it will pick up. For Ifema, whose role is to promote the different sectors, the important thing was to support the tourism campaign in our country in January. The contracted area is 90% of the fair before the pandemic and 120,000 people will participate, 90,000 in person. We have done it because Fitur is going to be safe. Zero risk does not exist, but we have been more demanding with the covid passport and the FPP2 masks. People who come to Fitur should know that they will be protected. There is credibility behind our words, and credibility in the business world is very difficult to achieve, but very easy to lose. In my professional career in the car I think I’ve earned respect and I don’t want to lose it here.
Can this face-to-face Fitur serve as a benchmark for Mobile in Barcelona?
We have uniform criteria between the central government, the Community of Madrid and the Madrid City Council. In that sense we move forward. I don’t know the situation in Barcelona and Catalonia, nor the relations with the Fira. I can’t comment.