ATM focuses on innovation

The Middle East’s largest travel and tourism event returned to Dubai from April 28 to May 1 this year with 400 main stand holders from 150 countries and more than 40,000 visitors

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, officially inaugurated the 26th edition of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai this year

More than 40,000 travel and tourism professionals thronged the halls of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019, even as experts discussed the challenges facing the industry and ways to stay ahead of the game.

As this year’s main theme, cutting-edge technology and innovation were integrated across all show verticals and activities.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, officially inaugurated the ATM 2019, marking the start of the 26th edition of the MiddleEast’s largest travel and tourism exhibition.

The ATM, which took place from April 28 to May 1, had 400 main stand holders with representation from over 150 countries. With more than 40,000 visitors attending, ATM 2019 showcased over 2,500 exhibiting companies – of these 100 made their show debut.

The ATM formed part of the inaugural Arabian Travel Week, as well as ILTM Arabia, CONNECT Middle East, India and Africa – a new route development forum launching this year and the new consumer-led event ATM Holiday Shopper, which kicked off proceedings on April 27.

Other highlights included the debuts of the Arabia China Tourism Forum and the Hotel Industry Summit, as well as the return of the Global Halal Tourism Summit.

Companies that embrace innovation will be best placed to ‘sell travel’ to Gulf customers, said panellists at one of the conferences. Striking the right balance between high-tech and high-touch will be a key consideration for GCC hospitality and travel operators, they said.

Hospitality firms should offer tailored, halal-friendly products to appeal to younger Muslim travellers, experts told another conference. Halal tourism is expected to create 1.2 million jobs in the Middle East by 2020. More than 40 per cent of Muslim travellers’ global outbound spending comes from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Gulf hospitality firms can attract younger Chinese tourists with tech-enabled services and unique experiences, according to experts speaking at the ATM. The GCC is expected to attract 2.9 million Chinese visitors by 2022 as regional governments work to strengthen bilateral ties with the source market. China’s overseas tourism spending is expected to hit $258 billion this year.

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), one of ATM’s longest-standing official partners, was joined by 300 representatives from government bodies, hotels, destination management companies and tour operators.

The Dubai stand at ATM 2019 showcased the breadth of the emirate’s ever-evolving destination portfolio, as well as highlighting an upcoming pipeline of new experiences through numerous interactive activations and content-rich displays.

Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) said: “ATM plays a key strategic role in helping Dubai Tourism provide insights into the emirate’s dynamic tourism proposition to international, regional and local travel, tourism and hospitality decision makers. We are delighted to extend our reach this year by hosting more than 300 buyers from around the world to explore how to maximise our combined potentials. Our activations and on-stand experiences will build on the technological innovation theme of this year’s show, and we look forward to highlighting the scale of the activities that continue to build on our ‘digital, mobile and social first’ agenda.”

Next year will see the regional launch of Travel Forward, which will take place alongside Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2020. The travel and hospitality innovation event will connect buyers and suppliers from across the Middle East and beyond, enabling delegates to try out the latest industry tools and take advantage of technologies that could boost efficiency and improve the customer experience.

The event will cover the full spectrum of industry tools, from emerging innovations such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and machine learning, to existing systems such as booking engines, business management software and end-user technology.

Danielle Curtis, exhibition director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “In today’s ultra-competitive travel, tourism and hospitality markets, the effective implementation of innovative technologies is essential to the long-term success of any business. By identifying the right tools to meet their needs, industry professionals can give themselves a competitive edge.

“That is why events such as Travel Forward are so important to our sector’s future. By bringing together buyers and suppliers, and facilitating face-to-face interactions, the show will make it easier for participants to identify and test innovative technologies and applications that could help to achieve their long-term goals.”

Travel Forward will form part of next year’s Arabian Travel Week, an umbrella brand comprising several co-located shows including Arabian Travel Market 2020; ATM Holiday Shopper; CONNECT Middle East, India and Africa; and ILTM Arabia.

ATM will return to Dubai next year for its 27th edition from April 19 to 22.