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ATM 2017 adopting the ‘Experience’ factor

The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2017 has promised to be bigger and better with a big focus on the ‘experiential’ factor. Tourism today is all about the experience and this will be the highlight of the show from 24-27 April 2017 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

The 24th edition will witness participation from more than 30,000 visitors across four-days, with over 2,800 exhibiting companies. The event organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions opens up an additional hall this year to cope with increased demand.

Simon Press, senior exhibition director, ATM, explains: “The show has experienced phenomenal growth of over 70% since 2012 and this year is 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.”

The GCC countries as a whole are looking towards tourism as a way of diversifying 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 Venue

The show theme being experiential will focus on taking in the adventure, culture, heritage, wellness and 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.

“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.

The opening session will look at the role Expo2020 plays in delivering the UAE Government’s long-term vision for economic diversification. The UNWTO and ATM Ministerial Forum, entitled ‘Fostering contribution of tourism to sustainable economic growth and diversification in the MENA region’, will see 20 Ministers in attendance.

New this year is the inaugural Halal Travel Summit which will discuss halal destination strategies and how to sell halal travel. Other popular features include the Leaders Breakfast, Wellness and Spa Lounge, 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.

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.

The event has witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of nine percent to over 28,500 in 2016, with 2,785 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than US$ 2.5 billion over four days.

Some of the key highlights of the show are briefly described in the showcase…

The shopping experience

Retail Gain

A recent report published by Colliers International on retail development and its impact on the hospitality industry reported that hotels clustered around Dubai’s Mall of The Emirates and The Dubai Mall, enjoy stronger business performance overall – not only beating seasonal fluctuations in tourist arrivals, but attracting more tourists over traditionally quiet summer season.

Statistics show that hotels developed in and around the region’s shopping malls can expect to post an Average Daily Rate (ADR) 25% higher than hotels that are not co-located with a major retail development.

The UAE has the strongest retail tourism sector in the region and Dubai’s retail accounts for more than 40% of total tourism spending. While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have more than 626,887 square metre of retail space currently under development, other major GCC cities are also looking to replicate the success with Muscat, Riyadh and Doha all currently engaged in similar retail projects.

In Oman, the development of Palm Mall in Muscat will span 157,000 sq. m. upon completion later this year. The mall will feature the Oman Aquarium, an indoor snow park, cinemas, food courts, an amphitheatre and a hypermarket. The Al Araimi Boulevard Mall also in Muscat will feature a dedicated kids’ zone, hypermarket, fashion brands and F&B outlets.

The Mall of Arabia in Saudi Arabia, the first to be completed in 2018 will showcase landscaped gardens, water features, retail stores and a co-located hotel. This will be joined by first phase of Mall of Saudi in 2022 offering shops, restaurants, entertainment areas, offices, a hotel and indoor ski facilities.

Qatar is not far behind with the Mall of Qatar in 2016, while this year will see the opening of Doha Festival City which will be home to four theme parks and entertainment concepts, plus 500 stores and a luxury hotel.

ATM preps travel agents

Travel Agents’ Academy

The ATM Travel Agents’ Academy will see a return with two half-day sessions.

The free-to-attend programme will include itinerary planning, sales training and destination briefings, with a networking break, refreshments and a course completion certificate for all delegates.

The first session of the programme will see Rohit Bassi, managing director of In Learning, return to ATM following his address at ATM 2016. He will discuss ‘Soul of Sales – The Nine Universal Principles’ which includes how to teach travel agents to build credibility and connection with clients; how to identify and offer solutions to clients; negotiation and management techniques; and to manage transformation from sale to client relationship.

Sundar Vasudayen, Principle Consultant at TRS Consulting will also share itinerary planning tips. A common issue in today’s fast-paced industry, TRS will outline a number of concepts related to successful itinerary planning, including the PRIDE Framework, which is based on focus areas of pace, routing, interests, detail and energy.

Putting the spotlight on wellness


The global wellness industry grew 10.6% to become a US$3.72 trillion market in 2015, with the spa market being a key driver according to new research from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

According to research from Colliers, the UAE spa industry is estimated to be valued at AED1.7 billion, accounting for 14% of the MENA spa market, and expected to surpass AED1.85 billion by 2020.

Dubai currently has more than 200 spas in operation, with 25 new hotel spas expected to open this year. A number of wellness and travel trends are expected in 2017 including a move towards healthy holidays such as eat well, detox holidays and get-fit boot camps resulting in increased number of wellness packages offered at spas.

Other trends set to benefit the region in 2017 are an expected increase in demand to embrace local culture, heritage and sights.

Medical tourism will be another highlight. According to Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Dubai attracted 630,831, medical tourists during 2015 out of which 298,359 (47%) were international and 332,472 (53%) were domestic.

Sports Tourism

Sports tourism will be in the spotlight as UAE and Qatar lead the GCC in attracting more regional and international sporting competitions. The segment will be in focus as the GCC competes to capture a greater share of the US$600 billion global industry.

Sport tourism and the regional leisure industry have become increasingly important drivers for international arrivals to the GCC over recent years. Sport generates 25% of all tourism receipts globally, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), with 76% of trips, planned around a sporting event.

Many countries throughout the region host numerous sporting events such as Grand Prix, international Golf tournaments, swimming, horse racing, sailing, tennis and cricket, with the UAE and Qatar leading the way.

In Dubai, total annual sports-related expenditure was valued at around US$1.7 billion in 2014, according to the recent ‘Economic Impact of Sport in Dubai’ study by Deloitte. The report also found total economic impact of sport in the emirate stood at a significant US$670 million. In Qatar, additional visitors could push growth of travel market from values of QR18 million in 2016 to QR37 million in 2025, at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of eight percen. This growth will peak in 2022 at QR48 million when the Gulf state hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.