FITA 2012: the good, the bad and the really ugly

Written by Nell Alcantara

The third edition of the Fair International de Turismo de las Americas (International Tourism Fair of the Americas or FITA) was held a week ago from September 20 to 21 in Mexico City, Mexico.

The third edition of the Fair International de Turismo de las Americas (International Tourism Fair of the Americas or FITA) was held a week ago from September 20 to 21 in Mexico City, Mexico. Clearly, FITA wants to showcase Mexico City as a destination equipped to host global travel and tourism events. Did it succeed? Sort of.

There is no question that Mexicans are great hosts, but language is such a barrier that it should really been given more attention. In the case of FITA 2012, the message was: Spanish-speaking countries are the only expected audience for the event. Any efforts to reach beyond this audience were ineffective since the organizers failed to bring in translators. The conference sessions were all conducted in Spanish, which shouldn’t have been a problem since FITA 2012 organizers brought in translation equipment. This was ultimately an organizational failure, but it remains a missed opportunity since there was a sizable number of foreign journalists and travel writers invited to cover the event.

FITA 2012 also did not provide a press liaison for the event, making it difficult for non-Spanish-speaking foreign journalists to figure out what was going on. There should have been a press briefing on the night of September 19, when most foreign journalists arrived, or at least an event schedule should have been provided during hotel check-in. Neither happened. The press received their welcome bag, which contained a press schedule, after they returned to their respective hotels at the end of Day One, September 20. The information on Day One sessions, including the one attended by Mexico City Tourism Secretary, Carlos Mackinley Grohmann, was given out too late.

FITA 2012 could have also made better use of its press center. Besides a couple of security guards, there was no one from the organizing committee to turn to for information. Here again is where organizers could have used a liaison to make sure that invited journalists and travel writers were indeed doing what they were supposed to be doing. It would have also helped to have someone help in figuring out the settings for the computer terminals as well as point out which computers were connected to the only printer at the press center.

The lack of effective communication was evident from and to the airport as well. The airport greeter provided by event organizers barely spoke English and was unclear as to who is going to which hotel, prolonging what was already a long journey because of Mexico City’s traffic problem. It took roughly the same time to travel from Houston, Texas, to Mexico City by airplane as it did to travel from Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport to my hotel, Camino Real Santa Fe, by bus. On first count, it would be easy to forgive organizers for such a mishap, but to do an even worse job the second time around is just complete negligence. Organizers know how horrible traffic is in Mexico City, so why did they schedule an airport transfer from my hotel at 2:30 pm for a US-bound flight leaving at 5:25 pm? Apparently, they failed to read their own email advising foreign journalists to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before scheduled departure.

FITA also needs to learn the difference between travel journalists and travel writers. If gaining extensive coverage for FITA is the objective, then they should invite more journalists. However, if the event is strictly a familiarization (FAM) trip, then the decision to invite travel writers is justified. Somehow, it is the lack of clarity and purpose that made FITA 2012 a rather confusing affair.

Regardless, none of the above is an excuse for not being able to cover FITA 2012 the way I normally would a global travel and tourism affair. With the help of receptive students from Anahuac University’s School of Tourism, I managed to have the session with Tourism Secretary Carlos Mackinley translated from Spanish to English. Also helping to turn Day One from being completely useless was my interview with the Tourism Secretary.

Day Two turned out to be a lot less interesting to cover, as the sessions’ audience dwindled, and there was still no sight of translators. nstead of attending the sessions, I filed my first story on the event ( ), then worked on my interview with the Tourism Secretary to get it ready for publication later that day. The latter ( ) went live on Friday, September 21.

On the exhibition floor, FITA 2012 attracted enough exhibitors and buyers from various parts of the world to make it a success. With an estimated US$25 million worth of transactions conducted during FITA 2012, there is no doubting its significance. But the potential for an even greater outcome is within the organizers’ reach. The tools and resources are already in place to make this happen. The venue, Centro Expo Bancomer Santa Fe, is top-notch and is truly ready to receive global travel and tourism events. It’s a pity that the same can’t be said about the entire event.

About the author

Nell Alcantara