Arabian Travel Market (ATM) will welcome over 2,400 exhibitors from 87 countries when it opens its doors tomorrow, reflecting a 7% increase of square meterage underlining the strength and growth prospects of the regional tourism industry.
Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, speaking ahead of this year’s showcase, set the tone for the week by commenting on the positive sentiment emanating from the industry, backed by solid growth figures.
The region is embarking on an unparalleled programme of investment and development, with a clear focus on infrastructure enhancement and the goal of driving visitor numbers as well as diversifying their economies,” said Walsh.
“According to the World Travel and Tourism Council almost US$38 billion was invested in 2011 to support regional leisure and tourism development. This will rise to US$41 billion this year so it is clear that the region is growing rapidly,” he added.
Highlighting the strength of certain regional destinations, Walsh pointed to the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
“The UAE is looking to achieve 9% growth in visitor arrivals in 2012, as the country continues to benefit from unrest elsewhere in the region. The Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said the emirate of Dubai posted a 10% rise in hotel guests in 2011 against the previous year, welcoming 9.3 million hotel guests and cruise passengers with the average length of stay also rising 12% to 3.6 days. Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority reported a record number of hotel visitors for 2011, with over 2.1 million hotel guests, beating the previous record high of around 1.8 million in 2010,” he said.
Oman’s Ministry of Tourism is concentrating on promoting short breaks and MICE tourism targeting the Gulf and India as it continues its infrastructure development. “Research by Euromonitor has the Sultanate on a growth spurt, with arrivals growing from just over 1.2 million in 2006 to 2.2 million in 2011,” he added.
Similarly, the number of visitors heading to Qatar is expected to jump to 1.6 million by 2014, according to Euromonitor, up from just under one million in 2009
“Saudi Arabia is the other regional player taking giant strides towards tourism prominence. Recent figures released by Business Monitor International, see visitors to the Kingdom expected to reach 15.8 million by 2014, up from around 13 million in 2010. Its hospitality sector is growing in tandem with the country’s ongoing programme of economic diversification,” remarked Walsh.
Saleh Mohammed Al Geziry, DTCM’s Director of Overseas Promotions and Inward Missions, said:” Dubai tourism industry continues its strong growth despite the global economy still remaining unsettled due to our strong fundamentals and capability to meet the demands and expectations of the tourists and industry players.
Dubai hotels posted an excellent performance last year in terms of occupancy levels and guest nights. Guest nights rose to 32,848,190 in 2011, an increase of 23 per cent compared with the previous year” he added.
Route expansion plans by the region’s major carriers are also opening up the Gulf and broader Middle East to new markets as combined annual profits reached approximately US$1 billion in 2011, according to the International Air Transport Association. “The Arabian Travel Market has played a pivotal role in the development and success of the region’s travel and tourism industry, functioning as a catalyst to attracting key industry figures from across the globe, to the region. Having supported ATM since its inception, we at Emirates are proud to see it develop into the formidable force it is today,” said Salem Obaidalla, Senior Vice President – Commercial Operations (Europe & Russian Fed), Emirates.
“We see ATM as an ideal platform for Emirates to showcase our constant innovation; from our new global brand platform ‘Hello Tomorrow’ - our evolution from a travel brand to a lifestyle brand, to raising awareness for our new for 2012 destinations, as well as various other new initiatives across the Emirates Group.”
Since the beginning of 2012, Emirates added new routes into Dublin, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Lusaka, Harare, Dallas and Seattle. Other new routes planned before the end of this year include Ho Chi Minh City, Barcelona, Washington and Lisbon.
From the perspective of the ground level travel industry, Ali Abu Monassar, Chairman, The Vision Destination Management, said: “Arabian Travel Market is the right platform from which to network, showcase new products and re-affirm commitment and presence in the market. For The Vision Destination Management, as official ground handler, this is even more important and imperative.
“The travel industry within the Gulf is expanding; it is dynamic and vibrant, and this event brings together key players keen to develop this positivity and explore opportunities to grow further.”
Philippe Bonnot, General Manager, Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, also commented on the importance of ATM in promoting regional travel and tourism as a key economic force underpinning the region.
“ATM is an annual barometer for the industry and, 18 months on from the Arab Spring, the robust performance of the region’s tourism sector augurs well for the remainder of the year and beyond,” he said.
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 2012, which is expecting 23,000 visitors, is being held at the Dubai International Exhibition and Conference Centre until 3 May.