Regional focus to top GCC agenda at ATM


A strong regional focus will be the highlight of this month's Arabian Travel Market in Dubai with all six Gulf states lining up a significantly expanded presence at the event.

"Intra-regional tourism is a key focus of all GCC participation this year following the events of the past six months, which though negatively impacting the international tourism scene, have, if anything, heightened appeal for inter-Arab travel," said Matt Thompson, group exhibitions director (overseas events) at Reed Travel Exhibitions which organises the ATM.

Dubai, the venue of the event, has been enjoying a resurgence in its travel and tourism sector after an initial setback following the September 11 attacks in the US, and will be looking to further enhance its appeal as the regional tourism hub.

With new hotels coming up not only in Dubai but in other emirates as well, the UAE is well-placed to benefit from an expected regional tourism boom this summer as Arab holidaymakers look inwards in the aftermath of September 11.

Bahrain, the other major popular Gulf destination, has also lined up a sharply higher profile at the ATM, increasing its official pavilion by 20 per cent from 95 sq m last year to 120 this year.

The return of Bahrain-headquartered Gulf Air has also given a shot in the arm to the show.

A key focus of Bahrain's presence is expected to be its recently launched family tourism drive as well as the meetings, incentives and exhibitions (MICE) sector.

Neighbouring Qatar, which is making a determined bid to take a bigger slice of the regional tourism cake, will be doubling its presence at the ATM.

The country's recently-formed General Tourism Authority is mounting a 100 sq m pavilion while Qatar Airways will have a 117 sq m stand at the show.

Saudi Arabia will maintain its prominent presence with 14 companies represented at the event. The dedicated Saudi exhibitor space will be 304 sq m - a slight increase on 2001.

Saudi Arabia's leading travel buyers will again be in the ATM spotlight with some of the kingdom's top purchasers being invited to the special hosted buyer programme.

Oman and Kuwait which have also been moving to attract more tourists will be at the show with a bigger presence.

Middle Eastern countries like Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Syria are also boosting their presence at the show as part of their efforts to lure more Gulf visitors.