This year’s Arabian Travel Market witnessed a 10 per cent increase in visitors from the GCC and a 7 per cent increase in international visitors to the event, which was held in Dubai World Trade Centre from April 24-27.
For the second year in succession, visitor numbers smashed through the 28,000 mark – the show saw a 71 per cent increase in visitors over the last five years.
Simon Press, senior exhibition director, ATM, said: “The continued growth of ATM is testament to the strength of the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East. The event has also built on its quality year on year and the professionalism of exhibitors and stands not only increases the brand value of their own organisation, but also that of Arabian Travel Market.
“Exhibition stand contracts signed during ATM 2017 for next year are up 38 per cent year-on-year, with exhibitors keen to reserve their space for what promises to be a record-breaking event in 2018 as ATM celebrates its 25th anniversary.”
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, ATM has grown to become the largest event of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world. The 2017 edition, on the theme of experiential travel sponsored by La Perle, boasted an additional hall, with 466 main stand holders representing 87 countries and over 100 new exhibitors making their debut. The number of countries represented at ATM 2017, taken from all attendees, totaled 157.
The show got off to an inspiring start, with an informative discussion on the legacy of Expo 2020. Now just under three years away, it was revealed that plans for the site after the world showcase concludes will see 80 per cent of the plot re-developed with all Expo’s assets and transport infrastructure re-purposed for future use by a range of tenants and major private sector firms.
Commenting on the overall session, Press said: “The seminar also explored the importance of Dubai’s sustainable tourism initiatives, the expansion of the emirate’s airports’ capacity and the engagement of global audiences through partnerships with celebrities and social media influencers.”
The UNWTO & ATM Ministerial Forum, which was attended by more than 20 Government Ministers and global leaders, concluded that the main priorities for the region’s tourism industry include human resources development, public/private sector cooperation, connectivity, technology and sustainability.
“Despite all external shocks, the Middle East and North Africa tell one of tourism’s biggest success stories. A story that brings an immense opportunity to make tourism a pillar of economic diversification, job creation and sustainable development in this region” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.
“This meeting provided an opportunity to identify the priorities of tourism policy for the MENA destinations, strengthen regional cooperation and public-private partnerships that prepare the region to welcome the 195 million international tourist arrivals – almost triple the present volume of 72 million – forecasted by UNWTO for 2030,” he added.
New this year, the inaugural Halal Travel Summit, was one of many seminar sessions on the Global Stage, which welcomed leading Muslim travel industry experts including Rafi-uddin Shikoh, CEO of DinarStandard and Faeez Fadhlillah, CEO of Salam Standard & Tripfez, in a discussion about halal destination strategies and how to sell halal travel.
Muslim travel is a key sector for economic development and job creation throughout the world, generating $139 billion in GDP and creating 4.5 million jobs worldwide. And the travel and tourism industry throughout the Middle East is perfectly placed to capitalise according to panellists.
Fadhlillah said: “The US and the EU represent 44 per cent of the global Muslim travel market, netting nearly $64 billion of inbound expenditure during 2015.
“The Asian and Middle Eastern countries attracted more than a third (37%) of the global expenditure total, and these regions are expected to see the most robust tourism growth in the coming years.”
The one-day summit featured three interactive seminar sessions covering the big picture, halal destination strategies and how to sell halal travel. It was agreed there was a strong need to create a halal tourism industry body involving both Muslims and non-Muslims. Also, in the Middle East, there is a need to develop formal halal destination strategies with public and private sector involvement and buy-in, following in the footsteps of Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.
Zulkifly Md Said, director general, Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia, said: “Islamic tourism is not something that has to be forced upon. However, if you feel that you want to expand your business to the Muslim traveller, then you must understand the adjustments you need to make to capture their presence.”
Another of the highlights from the Global Stage was the hot topic of aviation. Despite the concerns from Gulf carriers regarding the electronic devices ban on US-bound flights, it is indicative of the confidence of regional airlines who all presented a strong presence at the show.
Jaan Albrecht, the newly appointed CEO of Saudi Arabian Airlines Group (Saudia), said: “The first three months have been a steep learning curve. Saudi Arabia is a country of more than 30 million proud nationals and residents, with a lot of background, history and a huge domestic travel market, fuelled by also having the largest population of young people of any country in the world. It’s a fascinating market.”
Other popular features included the Wellness and Spa Lounge, Travel Agents’ Academy, Buyers’ Club and the Bloggers’ Speed Networking events.
Press added: “What we have done is followed the market trends in the region and also listened closely to what our exhibitors want. The show is designed with content in mind and I think this year we were able to fully explore our theme of experiential travel, while also covering the hot topics in the industry.
“This would not have been possible without the partnerships we have created and continue to create.”
The ATM Best Stand Awards also returned, with some delighted winners including Etihad Airways, Amadeus, Kerzner International Resorts, Al Rais Tours and Holidays and Jetclass.
Responsible tourism, which played a huge part in the show and continues to be at the forefront of the industry, has appropriately been named the theme for 2018. – TradeArabia News Service