The success of Arabian Travel Market 2011, held from 2-5 May at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre, has mirrored the strength of the regional tourism industry through its impressive post show figures, despite unrest in parts of the Middle East and the fragile economic recovery in other parts of the world.
Although the official audited figures will not be available until next month, initial estimates for the 2011 Arabian Travel Market make impressive reading. Participant numbers for 2011 were up more than 10% year-on-year at 24,300, increasing from 21,900 in 2010. While more than 2,200 exhibiting companies comprised a total exhibition net floorspace of almost 20,000 square metres.
“Arabian Travel Market is an effective barometer for the health of the regional travel and tourism sector. Notwithstanding our hugely popular seminar and conference programme, dedicated cruise and medical pavilions, the numbers and feedback comments echo the underlying confidence throughout the industry and the wave of optimism going forward,” said Mark Walsh, Group Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, organiser of Arabian Travel Market 2011.
ATM’s geographical breakdown of attendees shows how the event reflects the region’s appeal for international travel and tourism, not only those within the GCC but also the rest of the world. Visitors from destinations outside the Gulf (18%) showed a moderate increase on 2010 figures, up 3% on last year - particularly impressive given the ongoing challenges faced in some countries within the Middle East.
“These figures are a clear demonstration of just how robust the region’s tourism sector is, as travel and tourism operators and hoteliers from outside the Middle East look to the Gulf as an inbound source market of choice, especially given the slow pace of economic recovery across Europe and the US.
According to the World Tourism Organisation, Saudi Arabia alone is the largest outbound travel market in terms of average spend, with travelers spending $6.7 billion per year on overseas travel. Further evidence of the burgeoning inbound and outbound travel came from Dubai International Airport, which anticipates growth of 11% and more than 52 million passengers in 2011, making it the fourth busiest airport in the world.
“Inbound tourism is in good health as well, with WTO research indicating inbound tourism to the Middle East returned to double digit growth of 14%, 60 million visitors, with almost all destinations growing by 10% or more in 2010,” added Walsh.
Contributing to the success of ATM are the quality of its conference and seminar programme, with industry experts discussing the top industry trends and issues, addressing headline topics from a variety of segments including aviation, luxury travel, travel technology, ‘green’ tourism and more.
The show also featured special offerings catering to specific parts of the travel trade, including Travel Agents Day and Careers Day.
Further responding to trends in region travel and tourism, this year’s ATM exhibition also included pavilions dedicated to the cruise and medical tourism sectors - both industry segments showing significant growth across the region.
Exhibitor feedback clearly highlights the success of the show in unlocking new opportunities and providing a central forum for reaching customers, developing business opportunities and gathering industry intelligence.
“In promoting our fleet of luxury mega yachts, we generated new business and found ATM an ideal platform to inform the trade about what we can offer, as well as learning about the demands of the regional market here,” said Anne Fuldby, Director of Sales, Variety Cruises.
Others found the numerous networking opportunities provided by the event invaluable.
“The power of networking is crucial, and certainly within the travel and hospitality industry there’s no better way to develop lasting relationships than through face-to-face interaction. ATM is a great place to reinforce your brand,” said Rebecca Wilson, Director, ESP International.
Importantly for the region, with some countries having experienced political unrest in recent months, others spoke of the role ATM plays in rebuilding national tourism industries.
According to Egyptian tour operator, Azza Zaghloul, Managing Director, Harty Tours: “Following the period of instability in Egypt, ATM was a good opportunity to emphasise that we are still in business. With a niche luxury product, I was able to meet with hosted buyers from Singapore, Germany, Ireland, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.”
With preparations for Arabian Travel Market 2012 already underway, next year’s show will be held from 30 April and 3 May, with earlybird bookings already active.