Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2017, which takes place in Dubai World Trade Centre from April 24-27, is set to be the biggest in the event’s 24-year history.
More than 30,000 visitors are expected to attend the four-day show, with over 2,800 exhibiting companies, forcing organizer Reed Travel Exhibitions to open up an additional hall this year to cope with the increased demand.
Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “The show has experienced phenomenal growth of over 70% since 2012 and this year already looks like it’s going to break all previous records. We have more than 100 new exhibitors signed up and 65 country pavilions, while we expect representation from 140 countries over the course of the event.
“Clearly Expo2020 is driving growth in Dubai as the emirate aims to complete 160,000 hotel rooms in time to welcome an additional five million visitors over the course of the event. However, the GCC countries as a whole are looking towards tourism as a way of diversifying their economies away from their reliance on hydrocarbon receipts.
“And throughout the wider MENA region, rising youth unemployment rates are driving governments to invest in tourism which is not just a labour-intensive sector, it generates billions in foreign currency earnings.”
The official show theme for ATM 2017 is experiential travel, taking in the adventure, culture, heritage, wellness & spa, sport, theme park, halal and cruise tourism segments, which are currently trending globally. This has been integrated across all show verticals and many activities, including focused seminars and roundtable events.
“Today’s travelers are seeking more than amenities and creature comforts; more than a sight-seeing tour and a picture beside a famous landmark. The increasing trend is for an immersive style of tourism, which encompasses different areas of local life – culinary, culture, history, shopping, nature, sports, halal, theme parks, wellness and spa, medical tourism and extreme luxury – and can be the basis for a holistic travel experience, by connecting with a place rather than just visiting it,” said Press.
“In this respect, the Middle East has a rich tapestry of offerings, from overnight stays in a stone house in remote Omani villages to a wander around the authentic and labyrinthine Souq Waqif in Doha or alternatively for foodies, a tour of Old Dubai, in search of wholesome local street delicacies.”
The opening session of this year’s event will look at the role Expo2020 plays in delivering the UAE Government’s long-term vision for economic diversification. Now just three years away, high level stakeholders, including Marjan Faraidooni, VP Legacy, Impact & Development, Expo2020; Issam Kazim, CEO of DTCM; Anita Mehra, SVP Communications and Reputation, Dubai Airports; and Deidre Wells OBE, CEO, UKinbound, will take part in a panel discussion about the upcoming event.
The UNWTO & ATM Ministerial Forum, entitled ‘Fostering the contribution of tourism to sustainable economic growth and diversification in the MENA region’, will see 20 Ministers in attendance. And ILTM Arabia will play host to one-to-one pre-scheduled appointments between suppliers of luxury products and destinations from around the world to an audience of high net worth individuals.
Marketing to experiential travellers will be an integral part of the ATM Travel Tech seminar programme. Press said: “The industry as a whole is embracing technology like never before, to compete in a digital market place where accessibility and speed are critical to the demands of today’s tech-savvy travelers.”
New this year, the inaugural Halal Travel Summit, taking place on the Global Stage, will showcase leading Muslim travel industry experts including Rafi-uddin Shikoh, CEO of Dinar Standard and Faeez Fadhlillah, CEO of Salam Standard & Tripfez, who will discuss halal destination strategies and how to sell halal travel.
Other popular features returning to the show repertoire this year include the Leaders Breakfast, Wellness and Spa Lounge (which has grown by 40% and now includes 35 international suppliers and 35 Middle East specialist buyers), Travel Agent Academy, Buyers Club and the Bloggers Speed Networking events. There will also be a series of seminars taking place in the Showcase Theatre.
The ATM Best Stand Awards are back for a third year and will see a line-up of top judges and visitors to the annual industry event acknowledge the design, creativity and positioning of exhibiting companies’ physical presence at the annual showcase.
ATM – considered by many industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 9% to over 28,500 in 2016, with 2,785 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than US$ 2.5 billion over four days.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, the show has grown to become the largest showcase of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world.