Organized by the Reed Travel Exhibition, under the patronage of H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and supported by the Government of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, the Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) - the Middle East's premier travel and tourism exhibition, celebrated its tenth anniversary as the biggest ever ATM since its conception, held this year, 06-09 May, 2003 at the Airport Expo Dubai. The Mart attended by around 783 exhibitors from 55 countries, 312 buyers, some 100 international media people on the working team and a record number of over 4,000 visitors (as on the third day of the ATM).This year, the ATM has attracted a host of newcomers, including some 60 new stand holders.
First time exhibitors included the NTO's from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Yemen. Understandable absentee of Hong Kong and Singapore stalls, some last minute cancellation come from Korea, Bulgaria and few other private companies from Europe. "This Arabian Travel Market 2003 is almost 10% larger in terms of contracted exhibition space than last year," said Tom Nutley, Reed Travel Exhibition chairman. It has been a very successful ATM right from a smooth start. Swiss International Air Lines provided air passage to (and from) Dubai and Avari Dubai served a comfortable abode as one of the official hotels of the event.
Despite the global travel industry currently passing through tough times since the beginning of the year, SARS taking an estimated toll of 0.10 percent off global economic growth this year; the leaders (in travel industry): firstly, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) successfully staged its 52nd Annual Conference in Bali, Indonesia (13-17 April) and now the ATM has demonstrated the courage to passing on the message to the traveling world to keep on the move. These are indeed tough times: Thailand expects a drop of around 700,000 in international visitor arrivals during 2003. Singapore arrivals were down 67 percent in April with obvious arrivals from Hong Kong SAR and Chinese Taipei to Malaysia down 90 percent.
There were virtually no visitors from China (PRC). Hong Kong SAR and Singapore could face profit declines of 45 percent and 25 percent, respectively, if the SARS cannot be contained in a reasonable pace of time. Hotel occupancy in Singapore is currently at 20-30 percent compared to a usual 70-80 percent. Even Australia arrivals were down 20 percent in April aftermath the virus.
On a positive note, Malaysia recorded 131,779 tourist arrivals from the Middle East, with an increase of 14.8 percent on 2001, officials said. This is made up of tourists: Saudi Arabia 45,007; Syria 21,109; and the UAE 14,124. On an average, tourists from the Middle East stay for 10 days in Malaysia and spend $862.6 per trip. Thus, total tourism receipts generated last year was $11.36 million. Sofitel Hotels and Resorts, despite tough and declining travel trend in the past 12 months, show an increase, though marginal, in its pre-tax profits, compared to previous year.
The timing for ATM has been right for Shangri-La Resorts and Hotels, announcing its two new properties in Dubai before the end of the current year: one under the brand of Shangri-La and the other - Trader's Hotel. For the full year of 2002, Middle East hotels across the region reported an average increase in of 5.2 percent over 2001 levels. A 5.5 percent increase in occupancy was offset by a 0.3 percent fall in average room rates, as hoteliers sought to discount rates to stimulate demand in these tough trading conditions.
The ATM has become a promising meeting place between the East and the West. There is a meeting of cultures, exchange of ideas and contracts a signed between the sellers and buyers, who derived full benefit from the show. Though this year's ATM unanimously termed the most active, over the years, despite buyers numbered less than the exhibitors, some buyers visiting the stalls felt that the appointments were not given a reasonable span of time to interact. In the opening hours of day one, appointment session to pre-schedule appointmernts between buyers and sellers could help to organize and maintain a time interval between each specified appointment to meet walk in buyers/ visitors.
At the show there has been a growing interest in new destinations like Kuwait and Qatar, which also called Media briefing to introduce its products. There is news that a first group of travelers has initiated a tour to Iraq in addition to the possibility of tourism potential into Afghanistan in the near future. Pakistan's participation is being applauded with an anticipation of showing its presence more strongly in similar travel markets. Mediterranean Travel Fair, organized by Reed Travel Exhibitions, coming up in Cairo, Egypt (mid September, 2003) and the PATA Mart, Singapore (1-3 October, 2003) would revive Pakistan's tourism which has had been badly effected after a series of tragedies unhealthy to the tourism of the country