CHRIS Chackal is visibly excited about his new job.
Not just because he has made a career shift – from the hotel industry (he was previously Accor’s global leisure sales manager for the UK) to travel exhibitions – but because, as Reed Travel Exhibitions’ new group exhibition director, overseas events, he will be at the helm of such premier events as the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Mediterranean Travel Fair (MTF) in Cairo, the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) and CIS Travel Market Russia.
No doubt, it is not an easy job to get into Matt Thomson’s shoes, who has steered ATM through year-on-year growth for the past seven years, but Chackal is confident of making a success of my new assignment. “To be honest, I didn’t plan this – the job just came up when I was looking through the papers,” he says. “I can say this for sure: my new job is very different and very exciting at the same time. In my previous job, I was concentrating on destination marketing and the promotion of Accor’s three- to five-star hotel brands to the City Breaks market and was involved in developing the leisure industry’s emerging niche markets in luxury, spa and golf. Having worked for many years for travel trade suppliers, I am now looking forward to my new challenge at RTE. The exhibition industry offers huge development potential and I look forward to assisting the growth of the overseas shows portfolio.”
Chackal, who holds a BA honours degree in business management and French from the UK’s Leeds University, comes to RTE with a wealth of travel industry experience gained over the past seven years which both he and the company are keen to capitalise on. That Chris is fluent in Arabic will no doubt give him that added advantage working in the Middle East. “I’ve always wanted to work with Dubai at some level,” he says. “My first trip to the UAE was earlier this year and I was very impressed with the pace of development in Dubai. But I am not new to the region as I grew up in the Middle East as my father worked in Lebanon and Egypt. That’s how I picked up Arabic. It was very difficult for me at that time but it’s of great benefit now.
“My knowledge of Arabic certainly proved to be very helpful at MTF 2004, my first exhibition with RTE. Even though I felt may be I had a lot to learn on the exhibition side I certainly broke through the cultural barriers and the communication was of great advantage to us.”
He goes on to say that RTE is bullish that ATM 2005 can build on this year’s record-breaking performance when some 8,606 trade visitors attended – an increase of 25 per cent on 2003. “We are optimistic about another record-breaking show particularly in view of the fact that 93 per cent of all exhibitors this year, both local and international, completed rebooking forms onsite at the 2004 event,” points out Chackal. “What’s more, within just four weeks of the official launch of its sales campaign, 42 per cent of space for ATM has been reserved. This is a fantastic start to the campaign which still has six months to run,” explains Chackal. “We are aiming for 20-percent growth on stand space meterage and we are highly optimistic that we will reach a final show size of 14,200 sq m – the largest in the exhibition’s 12-year history.”
According to Chackal, growth is being fuelled by the entry of new exhibitors and the expansion of a number of national pavilions. “New-to-show entrants are coming particularly from the Middle East’s mega projects and big ticket developers, including The Pearl, Qatar, Yoharah LLC Dubai and the Majid Al Futtaim Group.”
Already shaping up as the mega stand show, ATM 2005 has received huge pavilion allocations from The Palm which has booked the largest stand ever at any ATM, Dubailand which has tripled the size of its allocation this year, and the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Government of Dubai, which is increasing its stand to cater for the rising pavilion space demand from private sector sharers.
“Obviously the sheer scale of some of the stands means this really is going to be a show with an immense visual impact – even more so than usual,” adds Chackal. “In fact, we perceive that ATM, being such a strong show and such a strong brand, will continue to grow for at least another decade. The exciting thing about exhibitions is that there’s always an opportunity to upgrading a show.” No doubt, Chackal will play a key role in growing and upgrading ATM and other premium RTE exhibitions.