Hotelier Middle East caught up with Reed Travel Exhibitions portfolio director, Mark Walsh, to get the lowdown on this year’s instalment of Arabian Travel Market
What can visitors and exhibitors expect from this year’s instalment of Arabian Travel Market?
MARK WALSH: This will be the 19th edition of Arabian Travel Market and the show continues to be the biggest event of its kind in the region that brings together local, regional and international players for four days of business.
With the show growing steadily every year, attendees can expect to see new destinations, the latest technology, industry seminars and new hotel and resort brands.
Several initiatives introduced at last year’s event proved to be very popular and will be revisited this year. Our dedicated onsite cruise pavilion will return, reflecting the extremely positive outlook for the Middle East’s cruise sector.
Other regular features include the New Frontiers Award, which recognises outstanding contributions to tourism development in the face of overwhelming adversity.
All in all, attendees can expect a dynamic and interactive show reflecting the Middle East’s booming travel and tourism sectors.
Have regional events such as the Arab Spring and global situations like the Eurozone crisis had an impact on Arabian Travel Market exhibits and registrations?
MW: While the Arab Spring has created an air of uncertainty in the region, and despite the prospect of a European recession, travel and tourism is flourishing in many countries throughout the entire Middle East.
Arabian Travel Market’s geographical breakdown of attendees shows how well the event reflects the region’s appetite for inbound and outbound international travel and tourism.The number of pre-registered visitors from the UAE for example reached 2300 in March, representing an increase of 90% from the same time last year.
How many people are expected to attend this year and how many exhibitors have signed up compared to 2011’s instalment of the show?
MW: Over 2200 exhibitors and more than 16,500 visitors are expected to attend Arabian Travel Market this year. The event will drive in some 6000 overseas visitors, excluding international exhibitors into Dubai to participate in the show.
The number of pre-registered visitors at the beginning of March was around 5400, up a staggering 78% from the same time last year. Meanwhile, pre-registration numbers for buyers are up 52% from 2011, at over 1800.
What do you expect to be the major trends at this year’s show?
MW: One of the major trends we expect is the increase in the number of visitors choosing to register online before arriving onsite. The travel industry is moving evermore towards technology and visitors are finding it more convenient to register before the event.
This number is growing at such a pace that pre-registered visitors now outnumber those registering onsite at the show.
Between 2007 and 2009 pre-registered attendees averaged 35% of the total visitors registered. However, last year 54% of visitors had pre-registered online prior to the show and we see that trend accelerating.
If this trend continues as we expect, within four years over 90% of our registrations will be completed online in advance of the show. In terms of industry trends, what is evident is the increasing number of Chinese visitors heading to the Middle East.
A lot of the exhibitors from the GCC will naturally have strategies in place to cater for this, whether it is having staff onsite who speak Chinese or having specially translated brochures. Tour operators for example would put together leisure packages that accommodate their interests.
Who are the major buyers at ATM?
MW: The majority of our buyers are leisure based and look to buy products that make up the entire holiday package from hotels to flights, to car hire, ground handling services and more.
The Buyers Club will also include the smaller and niche groups like the cruise and medical tourism groups, along with sport and the more established business tourism. In terms of companies, 72% of Buyers Club members work for outbound tour operators and travel agencies.
Geographically speaking, over 62% of our buyers come from the GCC region, with the rest being made up from all other regions around the world.
All buyers, regardless of where they come from or what they are buying, will be given a Buyers Club badge making it easier for exhibitors to identify them on the show floor.
Is there anything you are particularly excited about in this year’s show?
MW: I am particularly excited about the ATM and UN World Tourism Organisation forum and I am also personally looking forward to sitting in on several of the technology theatre seminar series. I always enjoy spending time with the ATM team onsite and celebrating 12 months of hard work together.
Top ATM survival tips!
1. Have strong newsworthy announcements to attract visitors to your stands.
2. Make the most of social media campaigns leading up to the event in order to interact directly with key target audiences.
3. Exhibitors will need to make sure their stands look interesting and attractive as it is a reflection of their organisation.
4. Use the press conference rooms to communicate with the media.
5. Visitors should plan and prepare by pre-registering — it’s AED100 pp onsite.
6. Keep up to date with the conference programme.
7. Download the free ATM app, which is full of the latest show information.
8. Wear a comfy pair of shoes!
New for 2012!
1. A special ATM and UN World Tourism Organisation forum, where Middle East tourism ministers will gather to discuss the key issues facing the region’s tourism agenda.
2. An expanded seminar offering with a new technology seminar series sponsored by Sabre, which addresses the region’s shift from offline to online travel bookings. These will take place in a specially designated Tech Theatre, and will run throughout the week, with top digital experts specialising in the travel sector leading interactive sessions.
3. A host of new travel companies and destinations.
4. In an effort to make the show more visitor friendly, the floor space has been remodelled to make everything more accessible, with exhibition halls now in a more compact area.