BITE makes a splash


The success of the first Bahrain International Travel Expo (BITE 2005) has spurred the organisers to embark on a bigger exhibition next year in the Kingdom.

The BITE 2006 will be held next May and Sunshine Tours, the organiser of the event, hopes to attract more than 100 exhibitors to the event which is targeted at consumers.
The debut show was described as a tremendous success despite time constraints. The show attracted 12,500 genuine visitors and 42 exhibitors, who were able to do business amounting to $500,000.
Speaking at a post-show press conference, Unitag Group chairman and chief executive, Jamil Wafa, said the support of Bahrain’s Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the government was crucial to the success of the event.
Sunshine Tours is a division of the Unitag Group. The conference was attended by Sunshine Tours chief executive Hisham Al Baradie and general manager Abraham John.
Wafa also congratulated the Sunshine Tours team for daring to embark on such a venture. “We in Bahrain lacked a tourism show compared to other states in the region and were left behind in promoting this key sector,” he said. “ We have tried to provide a lead through the BITE 2005,” said Wafa.
“Our idea is to portray Bahrain as a major hub and as a leader in the region. The Kingdom, in fact, was a travel hub in the 1950s and 60s. However, we lost the advantage and left behind due to lack of planning,” said Wafa, a doyen of Bahrain’s travel industry.
Quoting from the feedback received from the show, he said almost 80 per cent of the exhibitors were happy with the show and 87 per cent were keen to take part again.
However, there were suggestions to increase the show’s duration, size and for more generous offers to consumers. Participants also wanted to the show include weekends so more people from neighbouring countries can take part.
The next show will be marketed throughout the Gulf and in Europe and the Far East, said Wafa. It is likely to be held a week after Dubai’s Arab Travel Market (ATM).
Speaking about the changes taking place in the travel industry, he said agencies needed to think differently as the airline commissions are being reduced drastically. “We have to bring better facilities, better services to customers to stay in the game,” he said.
He admitted that Bahrain’s travel agency market is overcrowded with 160 agencies serving about 700,000 people, where as London with a population of 10 million has only 400 agencies.