FITUR LANGUAGE and idiomatic tourism

What is FITUR?

FITUR (acronym for «Feria Internacional del Turismo») is an important event that takes place annually at the IFEMA fairgrounds and is an important focus of promotion for international tourism. This event, which takes place over five days, brings together in the same space both tourism professionals, who come to promote their products and to learn about the latest developments in the sector, and the public which attends during the weekend, who are mainly interested in learning about the destinations on offer. FITUR 2023 took place last January between the 18th and 22nd.

FITUR hosts pavilions dedicated to each of the countries represented, which exhibit their main touristic attractions. Thus, this event has become an international meeting point of reference for tourism professionals, and a leading fair in the Ibero-American market. One of its most outstanding features is that it includes a great diversity, offering a series of very specialized areas.

FITUR LANGUAGE and the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language

Since 2021, within the framework of this fair for the promotion of tourism, a specific space has been dedicated to address the opportunities offered by language tourism within a program of activities related to the rise of the Spanish language and its international outreach. This space is known as FITUR LANGUAGE, and aims to exploit the tourist and commercial attraction of our language for dozens of potential markets.


Spanish is spoken by a total of 580 million people, 7.6% of the world’s population, according to the Cervantes Institute yearbook, making it the second most spoken mother tongue in the world in terms of the number of speakers. In addition, it is studied by 22 million people in 110 countries, and is the third most used language on the Internet.

Reactivation of language tourism and its strategic value

The fact that a specific space is dedicated to language tourism at the International Tourism Fair is an important recognition of a booming sector which, in addition to promoting Spanish culture, reinforces Spain’s image abroad and provides important benefits thanks to the arrival of thousands of foreign students, many of them youngsters.

However, what exactly do we mean when we talk about ‘language tourism’? Language tourism is defined as the set of educational, social and cultural activities that people carry out in a foreign country, the main motive of their visit being to learn the native language of the host country. Traveling for the purpose of language learning has become an increasingly common activity, especially in Europe, where student mobility schemes (such as the Erasmus program) have proliferated in recent years.

In the current tourism context, consolidated destinations (as is the case of Spain) need to develop new thematic approaches that allow them to maintain their position in the market and increase the benefits obtained from tourism activity. Thus, in response to this possible stagnation in the sector, these tourist destinations have decided to promote new actions with the aim of renewing the interest of the demand; and, within these proposals, in recent years, the offer of tourism focused on the learning of Spanish has been proposed. Ultimately, this implies a recognition of the value of languages as an economic resource within the tourism sector.

The reasons that have led to the promotion of actions related to language tourism are diverse, but they are mainly based on the capacity of this modality to generate a positive impact on the place of destination. In this sense, two of the most advantageous aspects of language tourism would be, on the one hand, its suitability to generate economic benefits directly or indirectly, and, on the other hand, the possibility of creating loyalty among the language tourists in the receiving place, so that they become a prescriber of the destination among their close circle. It should also be taken into account that the average duration of stay of tourists who come to learn languages tends to be longer, and the longer the stay, the greater the economic impact on the host country.

Language tourism versus language learning

Finally, it is important to note that the concept of language tourism has generated some controversy in the educational field. Some teachers specialized in teaching Spanish as a foreign language have pointed out the ambiguity generated by this term, since students may perceive that instead of taking an educational program they are «buying» a vacation of a linguistic nature. It is therefore worth asking to what extent we can speak of «cultural tourists» when referring to students who come to a foreign country to study the language of the host country.

Carlos Sánchez Luis