The show must go on…

Mark Walsh

Arabian Travel Market (ATM) was launched in 1994 with its’ target to become the World Travel Market (WTM) of the Middle East. At the time extensive research undertaken by Reed Travel Exhibitions indicated there was a real need for an event of this kind to complement one of the world’s fastest growing tourism regions.

The last 20 years has seen such dramatic growth not only for ATM but for tourism as a whole in the region. Looking back to my first experience of ATM it seems incredible that an event that started with just 2,000 sq m in 1994 has grown to over 22,000 sq m and now welcomes more than 20,000 trade visitors reflecting the amazing development the region has been through and the UAE especially.

From the beginning we knew that we had the building blocks in place to make ATM work. Developing a successful, mutually beneficial working relationship with the Dubai Government together with sourcing respected local partners helped ATM become established in a remarkably short space of time.

As with any high profile show it’s imperative that you keep the concept fresh and make sure that each edition offers new content, products and educational opportunities. With the rapid and diverse growth of this region we already had a head start. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a learning curve over the last two decades and we have learned that close working relationships with event partners and awareness of cultural nuances are key to sustained success.

ATM’s stature and growth in the international marketplace is undeniably one of the global exhibition world’s success stories. I am very proud that ATM is the number one travel trade show in the Middle East, but we must never become complacent. The constant challenge of ensuring that we maintain and enhance the status of ATM is what drives our team. We are constantly striving to make the ATM business experience as valuable as possible. In the current economic climate across the world return on investment is paramount.

No show comes without its own set of challenges and ATM has remained successful over the last 20 years despite regional political instability, conflict and market downturns. Our role is to re-emphasise to international delegates from the 100-plus countries that attend ATM that the Middle East – and the UAE in particular – is still one of the most dynamic inbound and outbound travel market places in the world.

Having worked on ATM for a number of years, I have seen first-hand the amazing progress of the region in tourism but also I have been so impressed by the resilience and positive approach of the local industry in overcoming the various, and sometimes unique, challenges that  the region faces.

It’s been a memorable 20 years in every respect. From the valuable endorsement and excitement of having a senior member of the Dubai Royal Family open the show each year together with a focused business environment and a spectacular social calendar of events, ATM is an amazing tourism show case like no other in the world.

Mark Walsh is portfolio director for Reed Travel Exhibitions.

ATM Diaries

Mark Walsh