The physical return of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai has been heralded as a signal of positive things to come for the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East. And while it wasn’t as busy compared to previous years, the overall sentiment was that those who were there went with intent and purpose.
Mona Faraj, managing director of Dubai-based Insight Out Consultancy, said she was filled with “pride and positivity“ as she walked the show. “A great start in the 1,000 miles journey and a win that we should celebrate and be proud of as a region. Yet again the Middle East, represented by the UAE and Dubai being the regional leaders, has showcased to the world how we can and will go back to in-person event and the value exhibitions bring.
“Yes, it was smaller; yes, it had fewer international visitors; yes, fewer representatives per brand; yes, smaller stands for budget reasons but those that are there are there for business.”
That was a sentiment shared by Mamoum Hmedan, managing director, Middle East of Wego. “The number of ATM visitors and exhibitors were both down a bit this year but it made it easier to move around and the people that were in attendance were more serious about getting business done.”
His boss Ross Veitch, CEO and co-founder of Wego, who had to miss his first ATM in 10 years because of travel restrictions from Singapore, added: “That Dubai is able to host a safe and successful in-person travel trade show this week is a sign that MENA (Middle East and North Africa) will be one of the first regions to bounce back strongly. Wego is already seeing this reflected in our forward booking data which is up significantly since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) reopened for international travel [on 17 May]. We expect to see this continue to ramp as more Saudis get vaccinated and become eligible to travel again.”
Muzzammil Ahussain, executive vice president, Seera Group, called it “a natural transition back to the industry event, as we saw positive developments in the last months on how the Middle East has tackled the pandemic, undertaken precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus and rolled out robust vaccinations drives”.
“ATM was the push that the travel and tourism industry needed in the recovery phase.”
For travel executives based in Dubai, attending a physical event wasn’t as novel for those that were not UAE-based, said Faraj. “UAE has gone back to physical meetings and internationals since late 2020, so it’s not new to us but to many others it was.”
For Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, senior vice president, Middle East of checkout.com, it was a good break from the “distractions of day-to-day Zoom calls and emails, “which reminded me how important it is to maintain personal connections by simply bumping into someone who you haven’t seen for ages".
Muzzammil Ahussain at the Seera Group stand: “ATM was the push that the travel and tourism industry needed in the recovery phase.”
Faraj said she observed much wider alleys, sanitising stations as well as a vaccination station allowing UAE residents to take their first jab if they haven’t done so. “There was a sense of ‘let’s go back to business’ so less public relations and catch-ups as you often had in shows and more on “how can we improve business? What are our opportunities?”
Seera Group used the opportunity to launch its partnership with Klook, which will see the two entities create a one-stop digital platform with end-to-end content and inventory management solutions as well as ALmosafer Concierge for luxury travellers from Saudi Arabia.
Said Ahussain: “We have seen interest for inbound tourism, given the large-scale projects that Saudi Arabia is undertaking. Travellers finally have access to the Kingdom as it eases restrictions and is opening for tourism. We have seen momentous attention for outbound travel as well since the borders [opened].”
At the event, Ali Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, announced that Abu Dhabi planned to remove Covid-19 quarantine restrictions for international travellers from 1 July, except for visitors from India, and expand its green travel list to boost tourism in the emirate.
“How we are going to move forward in 2021 … Abu Dhabi will be open for everyone with no quarantine protocol starting from 1 July,” he was quoted in this report. “We are going to welcome everybody to Abu Dhabi with a different [travelling] protocol but no quarantine.”
Source: Web in Travel