Arabian Travel Market, the leading travel exhibition in the Middle East, has been experiencing strong interest in exhibition space, with Oman’s increasing focus on tourism and cultural heritage seeing continued interest from the Sultanate.
Having already established itself as a leisure tourism location of choice, Oman is set to become a leading regional business travel destination. It recently began construction of its $1 billion Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre in Muscat, its first international-standard conference venue and one of the biggest in the region.
According to a recent study commissioned by Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, the number of hotels and hotel apartments in the country increased from 30 in 1990 to 195 in 2008, with an average annual growth rate of 10 per cent. The number of hotels in the Sultanate increased to more than 16,000 by the end of 2010, up from around 10,000 at the start of the year.
In addition, Oman’s major airports in Muscat and Salalah are undergoing extensive upgrades, with around four new regional airports also planned. Its national carrier, Oman Air, has also been ramping up operations as demand grows, adding new direct flights to major cities in Europe, the UK and Asia.
According to Mark Walsh, Group Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions Arabian Travel Market is a key component in Oman’s ongoing promotion of its high-quality leisure and business tourism credentials.
“Oman’s public and private sector has for some time realised the potential that Arabian Travel Market holds as a key vehicle for further enhancing its profile as a leading regional and international destination. We see it as an important event in helping to develop new ways of catering for an ever more demanding tourist,” Walsh said.
“Regionally, billions of dollars is being invested in tourism infrastructure - Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates are all aggressively expanding their fleets and flying to new destinations, and oil prices are hovering around $100 per barrel,” added Walsh.
Exhibitor bookings for Arabian Travel Market 2011 are already very healthy, with over three months still left in the marketing cycle. Many nations from across the MENA region have already exceeded the amount of space taken last year - with Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar up by 11.8%, 7.5%, 3.8% and 3.6% respectively.
Others have booked space roughly equivalent to last year, despite the global downturn and political uncertainty in Tunisia and Egypt. However, with the region traditionally being a late booking market, the organisers are optimistic of a 5-8% overall increase by the time the four-day show opens on 2 May 2011.
The Middle East reported year-on-year increases in all three key hotel occupancy performance measurements in October 2010, according to industry consultants STR Global. Occupancy was up 0.5% to 67.2%, the average daily room rate rose 0.8% to US$162.54, and revenue per available room (RevPar) went up 1.3% US$109.20.
Furthermore, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s 2020 tourism vision forecasts that the Middle East region, which currently receives 36 million visitors a year, will attract 69 million tourists by 2020, an average growth rate of 6.7%. That bullish forecast was made prior to Qatar’s successful 2022 FIFA World Cup bid, which is expected to draw many more visitors to the entire region.
“According to consultancy firm Grant Thornton, around 373,000 fans visited South Africa for the recent 2010 FIFA World Cup alone. In Qatar’s case, at least twice as many people again will be needed during the planning and preparation stages to develop the stadia, hotels, power and transport infrastructure,” added Walsh.
“The region has come out of the global economic downturn relatively unscathed and with positive economic forecasts combined with shrewd infrastructure development, the Middle East is well placed to capitalise on the healthy growth recorded in 2010,” said Walsh.
The industry ‘feel good’ factor comes ahead of the 2011 edition of Arabian Travel Market, which takes place at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre on 2-5 May. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai and approaching its eighteenth year, the show has grown to become the largest showcase of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world. Last year 2,236 exhibitors covering over 20,000 square metres, attracted more than 22,000 attendees.