Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2011, the region’s leading travel industry showcase, which opens its doors tomorrow, Monday 2 May, is preparing to welcome over 2,200 exhibitors from 69 countries, covering more than 20,000 square metres of floor space, highlighting the underlying strength of the regional tourism industry.
Mark Walsh, Group Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, set the tone for the upcoming event appropriately by reflecting on some of the regional industry’s most impressive milestones of recent times.
“Countries of the Middle East displayed amazing resilience during the economic downturn, as hotel rates, occupancy levels and other indicators continued to reflect a robust regional travel and tourism industry,” he said.
“With the exception of Libya and Syria, life in other parts of the region is now gradually returning to normal, while destinations such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai actually recorded increased visitor numbers especially in February,” said Walsh.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the Middle East currently receives more than 36 million visitors per year, with this figure set to climb to 69 million tourists by 2020, an average growth rate of 6.7% even before factoring in the substantial positive impact of Qatar’s successful 2022 FIFA World Cup bid.
Spotlighting the strength of certain regional destinations, Walsh pointed to the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
“In the UAE, the number of hotel guests in Dubai grew by 10.7% during 2010, while Abu Dhabi saw visitor growth of 18% in 2010,” said Walsh.
He added, “Qatar’s $100bn programme of infrastructure expansion includes 80,000 new hotel rooms by 2022. In Oman, leisure tourism is already booming, with 10% average annual growth in hotels stays. Oman’s business tourism is also primed for growth, with the beginning of construction on the new $1bn Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre in Muscat.”
“Likewise, the Gulf’s most populous nation, Saudi Arabia, is also growing in popularity as a destination for religious, business and cultural tourism, with BMI anticipating growth of 6.7% per year between now and 2014,” added Walsh.
It is a similar success story for the region’s airlines, “As we at Emirates continue to grow our operations, Arabian Travel Market continues to play a critical role as a catalyst to connecting key industry figures from across the globe,” said Ahmed Khoory, Senior Vice President – Emirates Airline.
“It is an ideal platform for us to raise awareness of our new routes – Geneva, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro – as well as various other new initiatives across the Emirates Group,” he added.
Marc Dardenne, Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group, also highlighted the importance of ATM in promoting regional travel and tourism, which play a key economic role across the Middle East.
“Arabian Travel Market reflects the robust performance of the travel, tourism and hospitality sector of Dubai, which continues to record strong growth in passenger arrivals and hotel stays. Tourism and hospitality are key pillars of the Dubai economy, and ATM fosters new regional and international partnerships that will boost the sectors,” he said.
Ali Abu Monassar, Chairman, The Vision Destination Management, said, “Once again, we are proud to be associated with Arabian Travel Market and to work closely with its official partners and supporters.”
“The show proved to be not only an excellent business platform to showcase, launch and place products, but also an important pillar in the growth and reputation of our destination,” he added.
Saleh Al Geziry, Director Overseas promotions and Inward Missions, DTCM, added, “This will be the largest ever participation by the DTCM. This year, we are participating at Arabian Travel Market with as many as 137 co-participants that include some of the leading travel trade and tour operators in the UAE. Our participation will be complemented by other leading players in the industry including The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Airports and Emirates Airlines, among others.”
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 2011, which is expecting 22,000 visitors, is being held at the Dubai International Exhibition and Conference Centre until 5 May. The event includes expert seminars, workshops, along with specialist industry days including travel agents day, careers day and consumer day.
Emphasising its extended reach, a number of countries are exhibiting this year for the first time, including Iraq, Poland, Hungary, Mexico, Slovenia, Aqaba, Ukraine and Chad.
ATM 2011’s conference programme also includes a number of expert presentations on technology, including sessions on how social media and mobile technology are changing the industry.