Breaking Travel News interview: Danielle Curtis, exhibition director, Arabian Travel Market
RX Global has unveiled plans for Arabian Travel Week, a series of digital and in person events in Dubai this spring designed to foster a recovery in the hospitality sector.
At the centre will be Arabian Travel Market, the leading trade show in the Middle East, which will focus on the future of international travel.
Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Danielle Curtis, exhibition director, Middle East, Arabian Travel Market, about the event and her ambitions for the year ahead.
Breaking Travel News: Arabian Travel Market is returning to the heart of Arabian Travel Week – as the tourism sector in the Middle East recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic. What is on the agenda?
Danielle Curtis: We have so much planned for Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2022, it’s difficult to know where to start.
Show highlights will include, among others, destination summits focused on the key source markets of Saudi Arabia and India.
At the same time, the revamped and rebranded ATM Travel Tech event – previously known as Travel Forward – will take place on the ATM Travel Tech Stage, hosting seminars, debates and presentations, as well as the inaugural ATM Draper-Aladdin Start-up Competition.
After joining us remotely for ATM 2021, this year will see both the [email protected] forum and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) participate live in Dubai for the first time ever.
The former will cover current and future trends for tour operators and attractions, focusing on growing business through marketing, technology, distribution, thought leadership and executive-level connections.
GBTA, meanwhile, the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organisation, will discuss its latest business travel content and research, during two main sessions in the Global Stage - ‘The future of business travel’ and ‘Building a sustainable business travel programme’.
And, as you mentioned, ATM will once again play an integral role in Arabian Travel Week, which will enable travel professionals from all over the world to collaborate and shape the recovery of our region’s travel industry through exhibitions, conferences, breakfast briefings, awards, product launches and networking events.
This is our 29th year working in collaboration with Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) and Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome the international travel, tourism and hospitality community to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
BTN: While the show will be taking place in-person at the Dubai World Trade Centre – there will also be an online element. What can you tell me about that?
DC: While we are obviously delighted with our industry’s ongoing post-pandemic recovery, we are also committed to ensuring the innovations pioneered during recent years are not wasted.
That’s why ATM 2022 will feature a ‘hybrid’ format, with our in-person show taking place in Dubai from May 9-12, and our virtual programme following the very next week from May 17-18.
ATM Virtual will once again take place within Arabian Travel Week to compliment the live ATM show.
Of course, thanks to the ever-improving global travel landscape, we are looking forward to welcoming visitors from every corner of the planet to connect face-to-face in Dubai.
We are particularly excited to reunite with our visitors from Austria, France, Iceland, Oman, Qatar, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States – many of whom had to join us remotely last year.
At the same time, we understand that not everyone is in a position to travel so, through ATM Virtual, we aim to ensure that those who are unable to join us in the UAE – for whatever reason – can nevertheless enjoy all the benefits that ATM 2022 has to offer.
Through this approach, we believe we can offer our attendees, delegates and exhibitors the very best of both worlds.
ATM Virtual will feature an extensive, high-level programme of webinars and a full schedule of video meetings available to exhibitors with key buyers around the world.
Virtual destination briefings will also be available which will provide industry professionals with an opportunity to showcase their destination to ATM’s audience of travel buyers globally.
BTN: How would you describe the mood among delegates this year – both in terms of exhibitors and visitors?
DC: If I had to sum up the mood in a single word, I think it would have to be ‘excitement’. ATM 2022’s theme is ‘the future of international travel,’ and this is exactly where our industry’s sights should be set.
As has been the case for all sectors, the Covid-19 pandemic has posed myriad challenges for the Middle East’s travel, tourism and hospitality professionals.
Nevertheless, our industry has demonstrated its ability to identify and capitalise on related opportunities.
My colleagues and peers the world over have not only found ingenious ways to overcome coronavirus-related obstacles, but they have also succeeded in spearheading new practices that are benefiting customers and providers in equal measure.
Don’t get me wrong, it has been a tough couple of years for our sector.
However, as international restrictions continue to relax and consumer confidence returns, I am confident that the innovations developed during this period will result in a more efficient, robust and customer-centric travel industry.
That’s why I cannot wait to welcome attendees, delegates and exhibitors from May 9th.
It’s time for the international travel community to come together to explore the long-term trajectory of our industry, and ATM 2022 is the opportunity we’ve all been waiting for.
BTN: The United Arab Emirates recently loosened Covid-19 restrictions and scrapped the need for incoming travellers to show a negative PCR. Is this the beginning of the end of the pandemic in the destination?
DC: I’m no scientist so it’s not my place to predict how the virus will affect our communities in the future; I’ll leave that to the epidemiologists.
Nevertheless, it certainly feels like we’ve reached a turning point in the battle against Covid-19 from an industry perspective.
At a local level, I’m even more optimistic.
We are among the countless organisations to benefit from the UAE’s exemplary handling of the pandemic.
Thanks to successful national efforts to keep case rates low, officials have been able to relax Covid-related restrictions covering events, shopping malls and tourism-related activities.
The upshot is that venues across the Emirates are now able to operate at full capacity.
This is obviously tremendous news for the travel and tourism sector, the events industry, and the UAE economy as a whole.
The ability to return to ‘business as usual’ so quickly, without compromising safety, is music to the ears of everyone working in our field.
But then, if you consider the UAE’s track record during the past two years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It has remained one of the most Covid-secure countries on the planet throughout the pandemic, with consistently low case rates and robust measures to ensure tourists’ safety at every stage of their visit, from arrival to departure.
Like its neighbouring emirates, Dubai has remained committed to maintaining the highest hygiene and safety standards.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), for example, has endorsed its pandemic management, awarding the city a ‘Safe Travels’ stamp.
So, in answer to your question, yes. While it’s impossible to say with certainty what’s around the corner, this certainly feels like the beginning of the end of the pandemic in the UAE.
BTN: Overall, the Middle East hospitality market has proved to be remarkably robust over the past two years. Has this been reflected in the research you have released ahead of the 2022 show?
DC: Absolutely. I’ve been hugely impressed by the resilience of the Middle East’s hospitality community during the pandemic.
The sector’s response has been so strong, in fact, that we expect hotel demand in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to return to pre-pandemic levels this year.
The UAE, for instance, is set for a 12 percent year-on-year increase in hotel demand as the impact of Expo 2020 Dubai and overspill from the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 take effect.
City-specific occupancy rates in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Cairo, Alexandria and Doha, meanwhile, are on course to achieve 70 percent or higher this year.
We are therefore absolutely delighted to be hosting ATM 2022 with the Middle East’s travel, tourism and hospitality sector’s recovery in full swing.
Keep up with all the all the latest from Arabian Travel Market with the ongoing Breaking Travel News coverage here.
Alternatively, register to attend the 2022 event here.