The Arabian Travel Market aims to build on its record-breaking success last year with a strong turnout of exhibitors, buyers and visitors expected this year despite the setbacks to the world travel industry in 2001.
A strong Gulf and Middle East participation at the show combined with presence from Europe, United States and Asia will ensure ATM's status as the Middle East's premier travel and tourism event.
This month's show is being held at a new venue - the Airport Expo Dubai - from May 7-10.
The venue change has been necessitated by work being done at the Dubai World Trade Centre in preparation for next year's meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
ATM patron Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tours the exhibits at ATM 2001 with other senior UAE officials.
All the Gulf states have mounted significantly expanded stands at the show while major international hotel chains, airlines as well tourism and travel related companies will be out in force.
Thirteen official tourism bodies from Europe besides national tourism organisations from Asia and the Far East will be at the ATM.
"Not only has European participation held up well, several official pavilions, most notably from Cyprus, Switzerland, Slovakia, France, Britain and Turkey, have been expanded," said Matt Thompson, group exhibition director (overseas events), Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), which organises ATM.
"Despite the impact of recent events on the international travel industry, Middle East buyers, among them Kuwait, which has been prioritised by the World Tourism and Travel Council as one of the Arab world''s largest per capita spenders on overseas tourism, appear to remain in big demand."
Turkey is staging its biggest ATM promotion this year as the country looks to build on a surge in outbound tourism from the six GCC states.
Britain is also fielding its largest ever delegation to the show this year. Thirty companies will be housed in the British pavilion, jointly organised by the British Tourist Authority (BTA) and the British Incoming Tour Operators Association (BITOA). This year, Britain''s participation takes on a distinctly 'green' theme.
"Our newly-designed stand will promote British gardens as this is one of our major campaigns and follows the launch of our website www.visitbritain.com/
gardens, which lists over 400 gardens and gardening events tourists can visit as well as a 'Britain's Gardens' Map," said BTA general manager for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, Mark Miller.
ATM exhibitors this year will have access to some of the GCC's leading travel buyers with a number of the region's top purchasers being invited onto the show's special hosted buyer programme.
"Twenty tour operators from Saudi Arabia as well as 50 of the world''s key incentive decision-makers will be hosted," said Thompson.
"They will meet exhibitors in buyer-meet-supplier sessions on the first day of the show.
"As with 2001, the MICE market is the focus of our hosted buyer programme due to industry demand and research among exhibitors."
Hosted buyers will stay at the recently-opened, five-star Fairmont Dubai hotel.
Exhibitors from 47 countries will be represented at the ATM.
"The profile includes 44 official destination pavilions and the mix is as great as ever both in product and geographic offerings," said Lindsey Kavanagh, RTE's marketing manager, overseas events.
"The Far East and Africa are also well represented. The only area not to have lived up to our pre-September 11 expectations is the USA, where the travel industry''s focus has become more domestic.
"The good news for industry visitors is that the product profile is growing, opening up more business opportunities both inbound and outbound.
"For instance, one of the leading yacht brokers and luxury yacht charter operators in Greece will be at the show for the first time, indeed it''s the first yachting supplier ever to be represented at the show."
Last year 59 per cent of ATM visitors polled said they attended the show with the specific aim of finding new products or developments.
RTE says it remains cautiously optimistic that this year's event will match last year's record showing when over 700 exhibitors from 59 countries took part and over 10,000 people, including 6,336 trade professionals visited.
New show attractions this year include an upgraded on-site educational seminar programme, which will run over the first three days of the show.
Topics to be presented include: 'Marketing To American Associations and Corporations,' 'Using Technology To Target The American Meetings and Incentives Market,' 'Sustainable Tourism' and 'How To Attract And Retain Customers Through A More Secure Online Payment Alternative.'
Corbin Ball, hailed by Meeting News magazine as one of the world''s most influential people in the meetings industry, will represent the Connected International Meeting Professionals Association (CIMPA), when he addresses the seminar on emerging web and wireless trends for meeting professionals.
Representatives of the Pacific Asian Travel Association, (PATA), Green Globe 21 and Paybox UK are among seminar speakers.
ATM 2002, which is held under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, will this year also feature the Internet Cafe, run by Expatsite.com which proved so popular last year.
The show''s official carrier, Emirates is offering delegates discounted fares to Dubai.
This year's event, staged under the auspices of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, will be the ninth in the highly successful annual series.