Phil Blizzard here speaks with Mark Walsh who is responsible for organising the Arabian Travel Market, the largest travel exhibition and conference in the Middle East.
Breaking Travel News asks if the aspect of Dubai winning the bid to host the World Expo in 2020 had already impacted the travel and tourism industry.
Mark Walsh: Absolutely, absolutely. Last year we saw the beginnings.
They were hoping to win the bid. So we saw that positive sort of opinions and now they’ve actually won it.
This year has been such a step up. The positivity in the whole is amazing.
I mean I do shows all over the world and Dubai is real can-do.
BTN: There are so many aspects when it comes to tourism, from airlines bringing travellers in to their particular region, the inbound tourism operators, the hotels of course and it’s really evident this year, ATM, the hotel stands, a lot of money has been invested in those. Most of them are double-deck stands. Regional brands. International brands, home-grown brands.
MW: Yeah. Across the world.
I mean one of the stats I find staggering since we launched this event, on the floor in there, either exhibitors or visitors, 157 countries are represented.
So it shows the global product this region has become, inbound and outbound.
BTN: So when it comes to new countries at ATM this year, give us an overview of those.
MW: Well, we have unique countries like Ho Chi Minh are here for the first time, Bulgaria, Romania, countries from Africa, Zambia.
So across the world now, I think people look at this region and the rest of the world is recovering slowly.
But this area has moved off considerably. Now the six years’ momentum to 2020 and beyond.
It’s going to be really interesting to see.
Arabian Travel Market is the preeminent tourism event in the region
BTN: It’s probably too early to go from new figures of the number of people coming through this show - just looking around, it does seem to be significantly bigger and busier than last year.
MW: I think so.
I mean we’ll always judge - obviously it feels that big but last year from 2012 to 20 13 we had for a show of this maturity and this size, a 20 per cent increase, audited, 20 per cent increase now, I’m not saying we’ll get that this year.
But I’d be very surprised if it’s not a double digit percentage increase this year.
BTN: Talking to exhibitors, the key thing for them is the quality, the business meetings they have, the deals which are spoken about, discussed, seems to be up compared with previous years.
MW: We can see one of the better benefits I suppose of the downturn was that people got a lot more focused in actually preparing for this event.
We’re on our mantra ‘Please prepare’ for this.
There’s 2,700 exhibitors in there.
You’ve got to prepare and we’ll help you prepare.
So when they come and they are prepared and they’re doing business, rather than just turning up and expecting – it doesn’t happen.
So our mantra is working.
BTN: Also someone pointed out to me today and you start looking around with another perspective, there’s not so much of the all singing, all dancing, gimmicky-type stands. People are focused. They’re more serious. But there again, there is the fun element.
MW: Yes. I mean you have to have that.
We’re not all serious and dry.
But what we have done is we’ve upped the content now.
We have three seminar theatres in there, an exhibitor showcase, a seminar theatre and technology which as we all know is changing every year and I’m barely keeping up.
BTN: We’re dashing off to technology in a moment. But you just come dashing in from the frontier wards. Who was the main recipient this year?
MW: Well, the frontier award is an acknowledgment of in this world we live in, there’s always a catastrophe of some sort and how you recover from a tourism point of view.
The recipient this year was India and they explained in the seminar what they’re doing for their infrastructure to overcome the tragedies they experienced this year.
BTN: We started off by mentioning Expos 2020. How do you see ATM growing over the next few years and perhaps leading up to 2020 itself?
MW: Well, again, my policy – it will grow.
I’m very confident to reflect it but it really must grow sustainability.
We never want to go back to the highs and the lows. Sustainable growth for this event is the way to go.
But it’s going to be very exciting on the journey to 2020.