The 17th annual Arabian Travel Market was today opened by Deputy Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. With more than 2,100 exhibitors representing a record 72 countries in attendance, early evidence signals a returning optimism among attendees.
Pictured: HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai opening the ATM
“We have said time and time again ATM serves as a barometer to the health of both the regional and international travel and tourism markets,” explained Mark Walsh, group exhibition director at event organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions.
“To yet again be putting on one of the most significant ever instalments of this show, in the midst of some of the toughest economic conditions we have faced, speaks volumes about the Middle East’s ever-important role as a catalyst for positive business potential, our industry’s resilience and perseverance and the scope for future growth.”
HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, looking at a model of Saadiyat Island
The Middle East has seen an impressive exhibitor number increase, rising from 830 in 2009 to more than 960 in 2010 – representing 15 per cent growth.
Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the UAE are all bringing increased tourism contingents for 2010. In the emirates alone, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah have all made significant space increases.
According to Mr Walsh, these figures are evidence of how the region has handled its industry recovery efforts and the investment, both on individual and government levels, it has put in place to capitalise on future market potential.
“To see such strong growth year-on-year from the Middle East clearly underlines how the region has weathered the economic storm,” he explained.
“Much of this is down to determined marketing efforts from the region’s tourism authorities, strong backing from government bodies, the Middle East’s airline industry capitalisation of market share via fleet expansion and development of existing and new airlinks and its overarching belief in being successful.”
Marc Dardenne of the Armani Hotel talks with Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
This year’s show has confirmed steady overall space uptake by nearly 60 national tourist bodies representing six continents, including a new-to-market showing from Fiji.
Moreover ATM sees representation from the private sector in Nigeria, Monaco, Swaziland, the Ukraine, Nepal, Malta, Libya, Republic of Korea and Iraq.
“We continue to see additional space uptake from non-traditional markets, as well as newly-formed companies, which is a result of enhanced tourism initiatives being instigated both from the region and from international tourism bodies looking to tap into the burgeoning Middle East market,” continued Mr Walsh.
“It is also extremely positive to see exhibitors returning after a leave of absence as well as the addition of new-to-market delegations, which only further reiterates the Middle East’s business potential.”
World Travel Awards
Also out in force at ATM today were winners from the previous evening’s World Travel Awards Middle East Ceremony.
While Etihad Airways was a winner on the night, as was Royal Jet Group celebrating its award for ‘Middle East’s Leading Private Jet Charter’ for the third consecutive year.
Royal Jet’s John Morgan with the company’s World Travel Award
Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, the luxury flight services provider is jointly owned by Abu Dhabi Aviation and the Presidential Flight Authority and is chaired by His Excellency Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan.
Also among the biggest winners at ATM today was the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) – which walked away from The Address Dubai Marina with five World Travel Awards.
After a fantastic year for the authority - which is led by Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al-Nahyan – the emirate won awards for ‘Middle East’s Leading Business Destination’, ‘Middle East’s Leading Destination’, ‘Middle East’s Leading Destination Marketing Campaign’ and ‘Middle East’s Leading Tourist Board’. The emirate also took the gong for ‘Middle East’s Leading Marina’.
Abu Dhabi has in recent years been seeking to carve a niche for itself as the cultural hub of the Middle East. Developments include plans for outposts of the Guggenheim and Louvre, while Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al-Nahyan has outlined plans to boost visitor numbers to the emirate by ten per cent in 2010.
Also celebrating was Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa, which once again scooped the coveted title of ‘Middle East’s Leading Golf Resort’.
David Thomson from Jebel Ali with his WTA
The property – which is comprised of the five-level, 260-room Jebel Ali Hotel and the luxurious 134 all-suite Palm Tree Court & Spa – also added the titled of ‘Middle East’s Leading Sports and Leisure Beach Resort’ and ‘Dubai’s Leading Golf Resort’ to an impressive trophy cabinet.
Finally among the delegates at Arabian Travel Market were representatives of the Gulf Hotel Bahrain, which last night took the award for ‘Bahrain’s Leading Hotel’.
Gulf Hotel Bahrain’s Dee McGuiness, Aqeel Raees chief executive of Gulf Hotel Bahrain, World Travel Awards founder Graham Cooke and Clive Webster, general manager of Gulf Hotel Bahrain