Spa and wellness will be a focus of the Bahrain International Tourism Exhibition (BITE), and there will also be a significant MICE hosted buyers programme to the event, according to Jamil Wafa, chairman of exhibition organisers MEEM.
Regarding hosted buyers, Wafa said, “This year we received more than 500 applicants, but could not accept more than 140 selected buyers. The tremendous interest shows the success of the programme.”
The event to be held on May 14 to 17 has grown from 1,000 sq m and 40 exhibitors in 2005 to 8,000 sq m and 120 exhibitors this year.
Other highlights include conferences on key issues concerning the industry from high profile speakers.
He believed that the quality of the show and its high standards had led to exhibitors returning year after year.
“The fact that the show has grown considerably over the past three years and exhibitors are coming back to the show in large numbers is proof of its success. Even people who have never visited Bahrain are coming to the expo.”
Wafa said he and his colleagues had received tremendous support from Bahrain’s crown prince who has patronised the show from its inception. “We are complementing the efforts of the government in promoting Bahrain to the international audience. The Economic Development Board (EDB), the Ministry of Information, Tourism Affairs and Gulf Air, have also given us a lot of support, as well as various government agencies and business houses,” he said.
However, he felt it important that Bahrain improve its infrastructure to able to compete with other international destinations.
“The facilities available are not enough to draw the discerning tourist or shopper,” he said. “Because there is no centralised agency in Bahrain, investors sometimes get stuck in the bureaucratic red tape. Hopefully, the EDB and the planned tourism affairs board will address this issue in a more professional and international way.”
“Every agency should come together to promote the tourism sector which could make a huge contribution to the kingdom’s economy and create employment opportunities for its young population,” he said.
It is also important that Bahrain conveys its tourism message to the outside world clearly and loudly. The kingdom’s focus should be on the international tourist who will spend quality dollar here.”
Wafa said the organisers were using the pan-Gulf media to promote the expo, and one of the main targets was the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, from where they had received a large number of visitors for the past three shows. They also participated in many international exhibitions including the ITB in Berlin and WTM in London.
“As our motto rightly proclaims, ‘bringing the world to Bahrain’ is our aim. Through this expo we want to tell the world that here’s a beautiful country with friendly people who wish to welcome the world to its shores.”