Luring the culture tourists

The signing of a culture tourism agreement by Lebanon, Syria and Jordan was the highlight of the recent Arab World Travel and Tourism Exchange in Beirut

Three Middle East countries signed a joint cultural tourism development program at the recent Arab World Travel and Tourism Exchange (AWTTE) in Beirut, Lebanon.

Lebanon, which hosted the sixth AWTTE last month, Syria and Jordan signed the agreement to promote cultural tourism in the region.

AWTTE, an international tourism exchange events organised to serve the Middle East, Gulf and eastern Mediterranean markets, was bigger this year with several first time exhibitors including the tourism boards of Malaysia, the Maldives, Turkey and Morocco.

Other country pavilions represented Cyprus, Syria, Jordan, the UAE, India, Egypt, Armenia, Monaco and Tunisia. Travel and tour operators, hotels and publications, including TTN, were also represented at the event.

The show was jointly opened by ministers of tourism from Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, emphasising the regional reach of the show.

The event was organised by the Lebanese ministry of tourism and International Fairs & Promotions (IFP).

Together with Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines, the ministry invited around 100 hosted buyers to the show.

First-time exhibitor Morocco Government Tourist Offices said it had expanded its marketing strategy to include promotion in the Middle East and used AWTTE as a vehicle for this.

At present, it has a representative office in Saudi Arabia and plans to open another office in Dubai.

"We want 100,000 with 50 per cent of that from Saudi Arabia," said director for the Middle East, Morocco Government Tourist Office, Mohamed Boulaghlagh.

The Turkish embassy also said it took part in AWTTE to generate regional business to its country.

"The Middle East is a new market for Turkey. It has mostly European visitors, so now we want to increase the numbers from the region. Turkey devalued the Turkish lire and now it's a very competitive destination," said Turkish embassy information attache Hasan Zongur.

Tourism Malaysia has had an office in Dubai since last October.

"The reason we are based in Dubai is mainly to do our media monitoring and evaluation," said deputy director of marketing Middle East, tourism Malaysia, Aminuddin Hamid.

"We're also creating awareness of Malaysia in the Middle East: Last year there was a more than 100 per cent increase in outbound tourism from the Middle East.."

The official Maldives presence follows the opening last year of an Honorary Consulate in Beirut last year, although the country was represented in past shows through a private tour operator, Concord Travel.

The new location of AWTTE, at Martyrs Square in Beirut's Central Business District, was well received by exhibitors and visitors alike.

Bernard Missi, the IFP project manager for AWTTE 2001, said: "The purpose of AWTTE is to have a big exchange of trade in travel and tourism in Lebanon because in the past the country has served as the getaway destination in the region."