Middle East to focus on changing perceptions

The Egypt tourism authority is keen to have a large presence at the WTM.

Tourism chiefs from the Middle East are gearing up for World Travel Market 2002, which many see as a crucial opportunity to change public perception about travel to the region.

Representatives from across the region will be attending the event to convince important trade partners from around the world that it's business as usual in their corner of the globe.

Tourism officials from several countries in the Middle East are expected to attend this year's event. Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Qatar and Syria are all planning to send representatives.

One country whose tourism industry has been damaged the most by the ongoing conflict in the region is Jordan, sandwiched as it is between Israel and Palestine to the east and Iraq to the west.

Marwan Khoury, managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board, said: "Jordan has become a victim of misperception and we need to work on changing those perceptions."

Jordan will have a new stand at World Travel Market as part of its attempt to give the destination a new image abroad.

The new stand will stress the diversity of the Jordan tourism product and highlight the many various activities available to visitors. Malia Asfour, director of the Jordan Tourism Board North America said: "Travellers do not realise how much one can do in Jordan in one or two weeks, so we are going to showcase our products and the diversity we can present."

Khoury added: "This year even though our industry is going through a major crisis, we have 13 tour operators, four five-star hotels, our national carrier Royal Jordanian and the Aqaba region with their own sub-exhibitors all joining us in the Jordan booth.

"This strong presence from our struggling sector is a testament to the importance of tourism to Jordan and the fact that we are all going to be at World Travel Market in such force is an indication of the importance of this trade show to our sector."

Dubai, which is one country in the Middle East that has enjoyed a booming tourism industry, will also have a strong presence at World Travel Market 2002.

The Egyptian Tourist Authority said it was keen to have as large a presence as possible at this year's event.

"World Travel Market is particularly good for reaching the UK market," said deputy director of the UK office Samia Khagaya.

"We would like to increase the size of our stand from 350 square metres to 500 square metres, but it will actually depend on our budget."

The South Sinai Group, will have four new four-star hotels at the WTM. LTI Long Beach, Hurghada and Fantasia Resort, Ras Sudr opened in early July and the Bear Asel, Marsa Alam, is due to open in early November.