What today is the big tourism fair that opens the year, was conceived by four Spanish hoteliers in 1979, who began the process to have its first delivery in 1981, says Andrés Lora.
FITUR is the talk of the tourism industry, to the extent that it is the big international market that opens the year and the event that all tourism-receiving countries want to attend. How has the Dominican presence in the fair come about since its first edition in 1981?
For the current edition, which is just starting right now, more than 60 journalists, including the talents of several television, radio and digital media platforms, as well as written media, will cover the event.
These communicators will be hard at work on the busy schedule of activities that include agreements to be signed, ratification of agreements, launching of projects carried by the country (Punta Bergantín-Sosúa -already presented in an informative audiovisual show at an event held at the Roof Garden of the Hotel El Embajador- and Miches as the great destination case) and the other spearhead of the Dominican delegation.
FITUR is the premier annual event for world tourism professionals and the leading fair for inbound and outbound markets in Ibero-America.
Andrés Lora, currently communications director for Sky Cana, the Dominican airline, offers in this article an account of the first roles played by the country at FITUR. Lora describes the origin of FITUR and the Dominican participation as follows:
“Returning to Madrid is always part of an illusion, of a dream that awakens after eight hours of flying and suddenly breathing Madrid, a city full of charm and many, many memories.
The beginnings of the country-to-country encounter are related to the recently established Secretariat of State (created by the National Congress in 1979).
Our first trip to FITUR was in 1983, at the Pabellón de Cristal in the Casa de Campo, Madrid, with a small delegation full of optimism and euphoria to make known who we were and what we could offer to the buyers attending the largest Spanish-speaking tourism event, which would later continue to grow and consolidate itself as one of the most important tourism fairs in the world.
Limitations did not stop us, even though governments of nearby islands in the Caribbean had astronomical budgets.
With a small space and good support with the presence of the protagonists of the incipient sector, travel agencies, tour operators, hoteliers and airlines, among others, we managed to attract the attention of buyers and those interested in the emerging destination.
The titanic task of Rafael Antonio Suberví Bonilla, then Secretary of Tourism, to find the funds to attend the FITUR Fair, which involved procuring airline tickets and negotiating with Iberia for the excess pounds to be negotiated, arranging rooms with the Occidental and Meliá chains and the punctual support of personal friends of the incumbent made that fair a success.
FITUR gave us the experience to move on to the Milan fairs and the extraordinary ITB in Berlin, closing the first three months of the year with these international fairs in Europe. The headache was always getting the funds and having to change them into the currencies of each of those countries, where everything was very expensive and resources very precarious.
At FITUR 83 we had a small space with just a cubicle with a desk and chairs for meetings and all around a kind of counter to give away our promotional brochures and souvenirs. An unsophisticated but colorful decoration.
The day before the opening of the fair, and as cold as you can imagine, we were painting, nailing and decorating. And the next day we had to be ready to present our best smiles and enthusiasm. Jeannette Nivar, director of the tourism office in Madrid who coordinated the visit of the secretary of state to present him at the highest levels of the tourism world, her presence stamped the seal of seriousness and guarantee that we were an organized nation open to investments in vacation enjoyment, give statements to the press and put the Dominican Republic among the new emerging destinations in the Caribbean.
A modest delegation accompanied us, a total of eleven travel agents, three representatives of the specialized tourism press, two representatives of a hotel and one representative of a tourism project.
From the travel agency sector: Rosalinda Thomas, Fideliza Pimentel, Julia Abreu Rondón, warrior women, pillars who bet on Dominican tourism along with Manuela Sanabia, Ramoncito Prieto among others and from the official sector, Armando Rodríguez Pelegrín, Gilberto Pérez, Miguelina Ortiz, Andrés Lora; We always had the unconditional support of Mr. Luis and Mrs. Rita Cabrer Caminero and the enthusiastic lens Carlitos Caminero. Those were times to put all the effort and loyalty for the benefit of the country, we only had the great satisfaction of fulfilling our duty.
There were also Jeannette Nivar, Thimo Pimentel, Maria Teresa Franco, Margarita Copello, among others …. and the day before the opening of the fair, and with all the cold you can imagine, we were painting, nailing and decorating. And the next day we presented our best smiles and enthusiasm.
When we returned to Fitur 1984, with more experience, we had a more spacious pavilion, well designed and well finished. On this occasion a large group of the different sectors of Dominican tourism attended, the novelty of the pavilion surprised many. The number of official delegations, as well as the private sector, was magnificent.
The Dominican pavilion attracted the largest number of visitors, attracted by the professional, cultural and artistic display.
On this occasion, Luis Sotorepresentative of Iberia, for Gulf & Western, Anthony Bayarri; W. Spoerel VP of the Meliá chain and representatives of Club Med of Paris, among others. On this occasion there were veterans of the business such as; Rosalinda Thomas, Felix Jimenez, Fidelina Pimentel, Elena Mieses among others.
During a press conference we made the presentation of a video promoting the tourist destination, we announced for the first time the abolition of visas for a number of countries and could enter with a tourist card and facilities for foreign investment.
At FITUR, 2011. The challenges remained and our country was in the spotlight. Our strategy and facing islands with created markets and with large investments in advertising, was to make ourselves known by our music and folklore and make the name of the destination, Dominican Republic, was on everyone’s lips. On this occasion we held a Dominican night where we presented the renowned Dominican chef Mike Mercedes who made a real gala tasting of our best dishes.
The mandatory appointment was at the Miguel Angel Hotel in Madrid, where to the shout of Mandé, our Rhina Ramirez, with her exceptional voice burst in to start a spectacular Dominican night where Vinicio Franco, Jose Lacay, Anahay and the folkloric ballet directed by Frank Ucero were also present. Angela Carrasco, José Lacay, Rafael Pérez Cid and Esperanza Liranzo ended that magical night with a four-part rendition of the world-famous song “Por Amor”, during which the audience joined in singing it.
The souvenirs that were bought in the model market included brightly colored hand-painted sombreros de cana, maracas, güiras, among other small items that we could give as gifts and that did not weigh too much to avoid overweight charges.
This edition demanded a great effort to move the invited artists and the members of the folkloric ballet with the logistics that this entailed, six couples of dancers, five musicians and a director, the instruments and the dresses at least four sets with their accessories and shoes…everything had to be impeccable, the eyes of the world were on us, and more, after the press releases and expectations created.
During the following fairs, already with practice, more knowledge and the enthusiasm of the scarce private sector that timidly made some contributions, not economic, we went ahead.
We can remember the famous party in honor of the agents and tour operators whom we wanted more than to conquer, it was held in one of the most famous nightclubs in Madrid where, thanks to the political friendship of the time, 6 ministers of the Spanish government attended. It was a great night where we presented Ángela Carrasco as a super attraction of the party.
In 2012 we brought Fernando Villalona and his orchestra and then the Súper Orquesta San Judas Tadeo, of the National Police, a “Copy Band”. We threw the biggest party ever at a FITUR fair, where Casa Brugal made its grand entrance debut with a huge turnout. Everyone in Madrid talked about the Dominican Republic’s unique party, which was attended by several hundred guests.
I remember Don Popi Bermudez who accompanied us on one occasion and was an important part of the leap to artistic stardom of a great Dominican impersonator. I was in charge of programming and directing the activity and after the important guests were present, to start the presentation of our guest artists.
The place was completely full and with a lot of security, when a young Dominican in the crowd asked me to please let him in, I really do not know how he managed to do it, when everything was ready to start he told me that he had authorization from the Secretary to make a small presentation before the guest artist.
A young man not properly dressed and shivering from the cold went out hand in hand with Don Popi Bermudez went to a renowned theater in La Gran Via, the owner was a friend of Mr. Bermudez and asked him to let that young man make a performance and that together they could see him, from that moment Julio Sabala’s life changed.
Even though the country did not win any awards or mentions during FITUR 85, the delegation had a very outstanding participation and made an important display of its folklore, so well attended that it prompted a drastic resolution by the FITUR Board of Directors not to allow the presentation of folkloric groups or musical ensembles in the exhibition and business pavilions of the fair in the future.
The King and Queen of Spain visited our pavilion and the secretary, euphoric with joy, presented them with a necklace of large amber stones made by Joyas Criollas.
Dominicana de Aviación played a leading role in making contact with tour operators to initiate flights to Madrid, Milan and other destinations in Europe. We can remember the presence of Hugo Bueno Pascal, Partenio Ortiz, José Ramón Tejeda, Antonio Alba, José Jourdain, among others.
In another of the fairs we took the complete folkloric ballet and a music band that we borrowed from the National Police, in total about 35 people, on that occasion we were invited to the coronation of the carnival queen and parade on the island of Gran Canaria, everything was a super show and then we participated in a private presentation for the Spanish jet set, members of the Spanish royalty and international press.
We were accompanied by Pepe Navarro, one of the most recognized faces of Spanish television, so much so that he became a media legend in the 90s. On that occasion the honorable Municipality of Santo Domingo covered the expenses.
Throughout the years I have been attending Fitur, it was in 1992 that the move from the Pabellón de Cristal, Casa de Campo to the recently inaugurated Parque Ferial Juan Carlos I took place. Fitur has been renewed every year, presenting novelties and potential tourism concepts, new niches, looking for new ways to evolve.
With this dynamic and as a response to the sectorization of tourism, in 2000 FITUR Congresos was launched: the Incentive Travel and Meetings Show, which served as a marketing tool for the so-called “meetings market”; that is, an area within FITUR itself that is specifically dedicated to conventions and business meetings.
Over the years different specific areas have been added, such as; the areas of Health, Procurement, Gay LGBT, Green, Technology, Investment among others, each specializing in a strategic sector; whether technology, environment, health or business investment.
FITUR 2022. This is the first time that a Dominican president, Luis Abinader, has accompanied us to an international tourism fair, giving a real boost to the tourism sector. I always complained that no Dominican president had ever taken our sector seriously.
The decade of the 80’s was very important and decisive, growing with strong foundations so that 40 years later we can showcase an industry that, although solid, is very vulnerable to any unexpected event. All the Secretaries and Ministers of Tourism have made efforts, and all of them, united, bet on the future of the industry.
We return to FITUR 2023. It is a romantic rebirth. Now, everything projects that the DR will arrive with a firm footing as a result of its historical records achieved in 2023, with Miches and Punta Bergantín as its flagships.
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