Breaking Travel News
Breaking Travel News investigates: Arabian Travel Market makes Middle East return

Breaking Travel News investigates: Arabian Travel Market makes Middle East return

Arabian Travel Market has reached a successful conclusion in Dubai as in person shows return to the Middle East for the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of exhibitors were joined by thousands of delegates for the event, which took place this week at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, founder of the Emirates Group and chairman of Dubai World, officially inaugurated the 2021 edition of the show on Sunday, taking a tour of the stands.

On show were exhibitors from 62 countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, Germany, Cyprus, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, the Maldives, the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico and the US, underscoring the strength of the event.

Delegates were spread across nine halls at DWTC.


The event will once again play an integral role in Arabian Travel Week, a ten-day long festival of travel and tourism taking place in Dubai and online.

In addition to the in-person Arabian Travel Market event, other highlights include travel technology exhibition Travel Forward; Arival Dubai for the tours and attractions sector; a GBTA half-day virtual business travel conference; and the Middle East Tourism Investment Summit from the ITIC.

This year, for the first time in ATM history, a new hybrid format will mean a virtual ATM running a week later, from May 24-26, to complement and reach a wider audience than ever before.

ATM Virtual, which made its debut last year, proved to be a resounding success attracting 12,000 online attendees from 140 countries.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, founder of the Emirates Group, officially opened the event

The Saudi pavilion at Arabian Travel Market was a key focus for delegates, buzzing with business deals and development announcements.

“Saudi is driving a new model of tourism for the twenty-first century,” claimed Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of the Saudi Tourism Authority.

“This ATM demonstrated the recognition by major global travel industry players of the tremendous opportunities our dynamic and growing tourism industry offers.”

More than 20 Saudi partners converged at the Saudi exhibitor stand, which witnessed over 890 meetings and a flurry of deals between leading travel companies and international tourism partners, showcasing the fast-expanding offering of one of the newest leisure travel destinations.

“Partnerships with the major tourism players are transforming or great ambition as a leisure tourism destination into reality, so we were thrilled to see so much positive movement at ATM,” added Hamidaddin.

The activity at the show mirrored the impressive growth of the Saudi tourism ecosystem, with the number of local DMCs expandeding from 17 in the summer of 2019 to 72 today.

MSC Cruises will launch two Red Sea itineraries in the autumn with Saudi home ports, and major hotel brands including Marriott International, Hilton and Accor will join IHG in expanding their footprint in Saudi.

Also on the stand, IHG Hotels & Resorts announced the signing of a master development agreement with RIVA Development Company via its wholly owned subsidiary RIVA Hospitality for Hotel Services Company.

The deal will see the pair open at least seven hotels in the kingdom.

The five-year agreement will add to the IHG portfolio across key brands in the country in cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Eastern Province, Abha, Hail, Qassim and Tabuk.

Speaking on the announcement, Haitham Mattar, managing director, India, Middle East & Africa, IHG, said: “We are excited to partner with RIVA Development Company as we strengthen our offering in Saudi Arabia.

“We have a strong legacy in the kingdom and are committed to leveraging the growth opportunities that focus on aligning with Saudi’s vision 2030 and the priority destinations highlighted in the Saudi Tourism Strategy, by expanding our presence across the country through our portfolio of global brands.

“With a number of recent signings in Saudi Arabia, across our brands such as InterContinental, Holiday Inn, voco and Crowne Plaza, we are growing our presence with best-in-class products, experiences and services, that attract both domestic and international visitors.”

IHG currently operates 38 hotels across five brands in Saudi Arabia.

Elsewhere at ATM, Breaking Travel News caught up with Jerry Inzerillo and Abdullah Al Zahrani to find out more about the Diriyah Gate Development Authority and Red Sea Development Company.

Haitham Mattar made headlines for IHG Hotels & Resorts on the Saudi Arabia stand

With just months to go until the opening, all eyes were also on Expo 2020 at Arabian Travel Market this year.

Visitors from across the globe will be able to enjoy a spectacular line-up of sights, sounds and tastes at the event, through a series of curated itineraries designed around their passions and interests.

Available in a half-day, full-day or three-day formats, the guided and self-guided journeys – the latter available through the Expo 2020 mobile app – will highlight site-wide attractions appealing to families, couples, students, business travellers and everyone in between.

They will help ensure Expo 2020 is packed with unforgettable experiences for all when it opens its doors to the world on October 1st.

Sumathi Ramanathan, vice president, market strategy and sales, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Expo 2020 is for explorers, foodies and culture enthusiasts, for children and grandparents, for entrepreneurs, inventors and businesses travellers, for the casual tourist, and for the curious who want to experience the future – now.

“Our easy-to-access itineraries will enable every visitor to discover the game-changing innovations, world-class entertainment and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that are relevant to them, ensuring everyone who walks through our doors has a safe experience that amazes, inspires and excites the senses.”

Find more information here, or take a look at the Breaking Travel News interview with Sumathi Ramanathan here.

Expo 2020 Dubai will open its gates to the world in October

Of course, hosts Dubai also made plenty of waves at Arabian Travel Market.

Over 70 representatives from government bodies, hotels, destination management companies and tour operators joined Dubai Tourism at DWTC to safely welcome stakeholders, partners and visitors to the key industry.

Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai Tourism, said: “ATM will play a pivotal role in strengthening the industry in what continues to be one of the most challenging periods for global tourism.

“With Dubai being the host destination and as one of the longstanding official partners of the event, our participation together with a cross-section of industry representatives is fundamental to the global efforts underway in dealing with a rapidly evolving situation as well as to drive post-pandemic tourism growth. 

“As we support efforts to help rebuild the travel sector and facilitate business within our industry, we will also leverage this important platform to showcase the breadth of our tourism proposition and innovative projects and initiatives while underlining that the health and safety of residents and visitors remains our top priority.

“We are committed to realising our tourism strategy of making Dubai the most visited and one of the most recommended travel destinations in the world.”

He added: “This has been further bolstered by the unveiling of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan this year by sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, which will pave the way towards increasing the diversity of Dubai’s offerings and experiences by over 100 per cent over the next two decades, and ultimately position Dubai as the best place in the world to live, work and visit.”

Visitors to the Dubai Tourism stand had the opportunity to learn about a diverse array of offerings, activities and initiatives from its key departments.

These include Dubai’s efforts to maintain its position as one of the world’s safest travel destinations, as well as plans for the Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Take a look at our interview with Issam Kazim here.

Dubai welcomed the first in person trade show in the Middle East in more than a year

ATM continues next week with the highly anticipated ATM Virtual event, which takes place from May 24-26.

During the three-day showcase, those unable to attend the in-person event this year, will have the opportunity to view sessions recorded from the in-person event, as well as participate in a range of webinars, live conference sessions, roundtables, speed networking events, destination briefings, as well as make new connections in one-to-one meetings.

Arival Dubai @ ATM will also take place during the virtual week.

The event will feature a series of sessions covering current and future trends for operators of tours and attractions. 

“This week has been a resounding success, we’ve welcomed exhibitors from 62 countries and travel professionals from over 100 countries during the four days of the event,” said Danielle Curtis, exhibition director, Middle East, Arabian Travel Market.

“Next week, ATM Virtual gives us the opportunity to interact with an even greater global audience.

“With travel restrictions still in place for many people, for those unable to attend the live and in-person event, the virtual element provides the perfect platform for travel professionals to connect, do business and hear from leading lights within the industry, from anywhere in the world,” added Curtis.   

More Information

Take a look at all the Breaking Travel News headlines from Arabian Travel Market here, a series of images from the event here and all of our video interviews here.