ATM lures buyers from 68 nations

The Arabian Travel Market 2002 drew trade buyers from 68 countries, according to unaudited figures released by organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE).

The travel and tourism exhibition which was held at the Airport Expo Dubai last month recorded visits by 5,624 trade professionals - a slight 5.4 per cent drop on last year's attendance.

Sixty-three per cent of the trade turnout by the final trade night came from the UAE, 5.9 per cent were from Saudi Arabia and 4.6 per cent from Kuwait.

"Trade attendance from the UAE was 6.8 per cent down on last year," said Matt Thompson, RTE's group exhibition director, overseas events.

"There could be several reasons for this - consolidation within the local industry, the change of show venue or the fact that many previous visitors from the Emirates have since been converted into exhibitors."

The number of overseas trade visitors was only slightly down on last year from 2,119 to 2,062.

The media corps covering this year's show increased substantially with 563 press members registering compared to 451 in 2001.

"The international coverage the show has achieved this year should help further build its global profile which could translate into a wider geographic footprint for both exhibitors and visitors in the future," said Thompson.

RTE says the show, which featured over 700 exhibitors from 56 countries, delivered a clear demonstration of the resilience of the international travel industry, which was badly hit by the events of September 11 last year.

"This is the first international travel show which has demonstrably held its own since September 11," said Thompson.

"Other shows have witnessed visitor falls of around 25 per cent whereas ATM 2002 almost achieved last year's trade registration, which was a record for the show.

"The main thing is that business has still been done. There has been a challenge in managing expectations with the change of venue and we will be taking feedback from exhibitors and consider any layout recommendation they have."

And as the curtain came down on Arabian Travel Market 2002, bookings for ATM 2003, which will be held at the Airport Expo Dubai from May 6 to 9, were already being made.

One of the first to contract was Saudi Arabian Airlines which has pledged to increase its stand by 30 per cent.

"We had a very successful show this year and negotiated deals with two Malaysian tour operators in readiness for this summer when we will increase our flights to the country," said Mohammed Amin Turkistani, of the carrier's marketing department.

Also rebooking was Hotel Napoleon of Paris, which signed $75,000 worth of room night business at ATM 2002.

Dubai-headquartered Ramee Group of Hotels was also quick off the mark confirming it has doubled the size of its stand for 2003.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said it is now preparing to receive Middle East groups in October and November this year, from tour operator and individual bookings received on its stand.

Also increasing the size of its stand next year is Dubai-based tour operator Net Tours.

Trade visitors gave the show a sound vote of approval saying it was meeting their expectations.

Yoshito Kumazki, of Tokyo's Pollux Tourism said ATM was an unparalleled networking opportunity.

Qatari visitor Dr Ahmed M A. Al Mulla, assistant general manager of Doha's Al Mulla Travels said for him the key attraction of the show was its accessibility.