"We're filling the fair again, the challenge is to fit everything in until the expansion"

The visible face of overflowing optimism.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
07 December 2023 Thursday 16:13
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"We're filling the fair again, the challenge is to fit everything in until the expansion"

The visible face of overflowing optimism. After several years of suffering and nerves, he is calm and especially excited when he talks about the future that lies ahead with the expansion of the Gran Via site of the Fira de Barcelona.

The foundation stone of the new pavilion was laid last week. What expectations do you have for these new 60,000 square meters?

It will be a spectacular addition. When we visited the works last week, we remembered that in 2017 we first had a conversation about how, how great, an expansion would be. There is a kind of distinctive mark in the 300,000 m2 in the large fair grounds around the world, and the Gran Via Fair had 240,000. It was a kind of vision.

It has come true.

The pandemic has delayed the project, but it will be quite a milestone. Adding space for conferences, meeting rooms and exhibition space will give us more flexibility. It will be a great improvement for the Fair, and it gives us the ability to expand.

The inauguration is expected for 2027. Will they need the space before then?

This year we will already fill the venue to pre-pandemic levels, as we have not seen in recent years. Now the real challenge is to find a way to fit everything between 2024 and 2027. We are evaluating different solutions. One such solution is to size up, but it is expensive. We can also build temporary structures there...

They already resorted to it in 2019.

Yes, and I don't like them. Temporary structures, if they are for the right activity, are fine, but building something low-cost for a high-level event just doesn't work. It will cost us, but we will do whatever it takes to remain attractive.

Moving part of the congress to Montjuïc would be another possible solution.

Maybe, but it has to be the right things. Until 2019, we had the 4 Years From Now – the entrepreneurs' salon that is held in parallel with the MWC. There was much internal debate about whether to keep them separate. The pandemic forced us to bring them together, and oh my god, it was amazing. I don't think we need to separate them again, because it makes the interaction between the two much easier. They are separated by a walk, but they are together, under the same roof.

So if something is separated, would it be another area?

If there's one thing that can be naturally separated, then maybe, but one of the best things about MWC is the ability to bring everything together in one place. I don't see anything on the horizon that can say it goes one way, and the rest, the other, but we'll evaluate it.

How many people are waiting there?

It's annoying.

would that be

To be honest, we don't know yet. Last year there were 88,500 people, we plan to exceed 90,000, but we never get discouraged by the number of attendees. We need to focus on providing the right attractions and reasons for them to come and do business from anywhere in the world, even if it's a long and expensive journey.

Which are the sectors that will lead the next Mobile?

It's still called Mobile, but now it's called MWC. We changed its name precisely because mobility is fundamental, but digital transformation impacts all sectors. 57% of the attendees last year were not from mobile phones. There were from the education sector, industry, transport, finance, biotechnology...

And artificial intelligence?

Yes, too. Now it seems like it has suddenly appeared, but it has been many years of preparation. Combined with the capabilities of 5G technology and big data, artificial intelligence is a kind of rocket.

I'm scared or I'm excited?

We have to use it properly and we have to find the right governance. I'm glad I don't have to do it myself, because I think it's complicated. It will be a very useful tool, and no, it will not replace your work.

I hope...

It will mean big breakthroughs in things that are repetitive or that don't need brain power and human interaction. He can transcribe this interview if he listens to my recorded words, but he won't understand the nuances or see my body language if I'm sweating because he's asking me difficult questions.

Or recurring Since they signed the renewal of the contract until 2030 and with the commitment of automatic renewal, they have kept asking if they will go to another city?

This time I only offered an interview to La Vanguardia, but I'm afraid I'm still waiting for the question in the future. However, there is one point I must emphasize: do not take it for granted, because we will leave if things deteriorate or we cannot celebrate the event in a reasonable way. It's not a threat, it's just a way of doing business. We must have good transport connections, good hotels, a clean and safe city, welcoming to people from all over the world. If this cannot be guaranteed, we will discuss it. Now, with that said, we hope to stay there forever.

Is there anything that could be improved?

Habitability is fundamental. I give a lot of credit to Mayor Colau for some of the changes she pushed to make the city more livable. It modified urban patterns and will generally improve the livability of the city. This, at the same time, improves the experience of visitors.

Can the new mayor make things easier for him?

He is the fourth mayor since we have been here. We had everyone's support. Mayor Collboni is a good friend, with whom I have been working for many years, since he was responsible for the economic area. We will continue to understand each other just as well.

In addition to the MWC, in 2024 the city will also host the America's Cup in the summer...

Yes, we have a good interaction there.

Do you consider possible synergies?

Let's talk about it again in January and I'll explain it.