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Arabian Travel Market 2003 achieves record success

Travel News Asia 18 May 2003

A total of 12,111 visitors from 73 countries attended Arabian Travel Market 2003 the 10th anniversary edition of the Middle East's premier travel and tourism show, which was held earlier this month at Airport Expo Dubai.

Travel trade turnout rose 20% on last year with the show attracting more trade buyers than ever before. Overall attendance was up by 6% taking into account numbers received during the two consumer sessions scheduled at the end of the show.

"In all aspects the show rose to the challenges the industry has faced recently and sent a clear signal internationally that this is a resilient industry and one committed to fast-tracking an upturn where possible," said Matt Thompson, Exhibition Director, Overseas Events, Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), which organises the yearly event.

The only visitor sector to drop slightly was consumers some 4,441 members of the public attended the show on the two public sessions, compared to 5,175 in 2002.

Initial unaudited results show that of the total visitors 6,883 were trade buyers and travel professionals, 695 were members of the press and 92 were VIP guests.

And as the curtain came down on ATM 2003, space reservations were already being made for the 2004 event.

Pavilion expansion commitments were received from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

"We returned to ATM with a pavilion after a break of five years and we got a tremendous response. The show helped us build awareness of Sri Lanka. We are now going to double our stand size next year and will be back with more trade participants," said Sisira Abeyratne, Management Assistant, Sri Lanka Tourism Board.

Also looking to spur greater private sector involvement in the show was Tanzania. Fielding a government-only delegation, the country made some headway but the pavilion organiser wants greater support next time.

Once the industry back home learns of the interest that has been created, it will prompt the private sector to come next year," said Benson Kibonde, Head of Wildlife Division, Tanzanian Government.

There was brisk activity on the floor of the show with 10am until 4pm recording the largest trade visitor influx. And business contracted cut across industry segments and sectors.

A two and three-star Dubai hotel operator said the first day brought rewards.

"We took part to target largely the African and Iranian markets but weve also had interest from France," said E. D. Baburgaj, General Manager, Hotel Florida International. "In the first two days we sold 300 room nights."

At the five-star, high-end demand was also strong.

"There was huge interest in our five-star flagship hotels in Paris and Geneva. There was strong interest from independent travellers from the high end of the market," said Gilbert Kanawaty, Serrep.

The high end was also being successfully targeted by first-time exhibitor Liveras Yachts of Monaco.

"There was a great flow of quality traffic," explained Kyri Kyriacou of Liveras. "We have had a lot of enquiries which will lead to business. This show put us in front of the right kind of clientele."

It wasn't just the range of visitor which satisfied exhibitors, the geographic footprint also excelled.

"We saw a lot of agents and are quoting on itineraries for agents from Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran," said Jill Walker of Cape Town's African Pride Tours.

"This is the marvellous thing about this show, other exhibitions are very limited in their visitor catchment reach, but this show brings in people from all over Egypt, India and the CIS for example."

With visitors from 73 countries attending this year, the expanse of the geographic reach was underlined.

"There was substantial attendance from the other GCC countries, the wider Middle East, North Africa and the Sub-continent," explained Thompson. "We achieved the highest turnout ever from Saudi Arabia, with 6.3% of visitors coming from the Kingdom, and the same goes for Kuwait from which 4.2% of the turnout arrived."

The appeal of the show had reached far and wide and business generated justified trips of thousands of miles.

Madam Halima OJ, came from South Africa solely to attend the show.

"I visited to develop links with GCC companies because I am a Haj and Umrah consultant," she said. "I made a deal with a Saudi company and this deal alone meant the whole trip was worthwhile."

First-time visitor Paddington Tucker of the UK had his sights firmly fixed on Dubai tour operators.

"We are hotel suppliers looking for tour operator partners. I found one or two that I'm very interested in and which could lead to new business," he said.

Arabian Travel Market 2003 was the first major league travel show to take place after the conflict in Iraq and in the wake of the SARS outbreak. Nonetheless ATM 2003 held its own with 783 exhibitors from 55 countries and delivered a show which was 10% bigger than 2002.

"This show was clearly seen by the trade as an international opportunity to claw back business lost over recent months," said Thompson.

Having weathered industry challenges, RTE believes the show can grow even further in 2004.

"We are looking for double-digit growth and believe we can achieve a 10,000 square metre show next year. We will be looking to attract back national pavilions which were missing this year," said Thompson.

"The growth of Arabian Travel Market mirrors the development of the Middle East's tourism infrastructure and its outbound appeal. The show is now the fastest-growing and the second largest of the 13 events in the RTE portfolio."

Arabian Travel Market 2004 will be held at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, United Arab Emirates from May 4-7.

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