‘MTF continues to grow’

Chris Chackal, group exhibitions director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, talks to SHAFQUAT ALI about the show and how it will boost the tourism industry in the region
Chackal … upbeat

With less than a week to go before the Mediterranean Travel Fair 2005 (MTF) throws open it doors, the organisers are busy preparing themselves to welcome a larger-than-anticipated audience of international and intra-regional buyers between September 6 and 8 at the Cairo International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

If anything, an increase of almost 25 per cent in the number of buyers pre registering to visit MTF on last year’s MTF Reed Travel Exhibitions demonstrates that Egypt’s tourism industry has not only recovered from the recent blasts in Sharm El Sheikh but bounced back with renewed vigour.
Like Egypt, these are exciting times for the travel and tourism industry in the entire Eastern Mediterranean region as well. And, with so much to offer, it is not surprising that it is the focus of world attention today and more and more tourists from around the world are flocking in this direction. MTF 2005, which brings some of the most important and influential buyers to do business at the show, is just the platform to promote the region to a world audience.
Chris Chackal, group exhibitions director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, talks to TTN about the show and what it will do the travel and tourism industry in the region. Excerpts from an interview: 

TTN: How will MTF 2005 be different from the previous year?
Chris Chackal: MTF 2005 is an expansion on the previous year’s show, with a number of new exhibitors joining the exhibition. It is also the first MTF to have a fully-hosted programme for MICE buyers – we are delighted to host, with the assistance of our partners, about 50 MICE buyers from around the world. It is great news for the exhibitors and the show that we are able to bring such highly-influential buyers.
With a series of prescheduled meetings and on-site appointments, buyers can meet potential exhibitors and a lot of business can be generated at the show. It is a big step for us as we see the MICE as the fastest growing sector not just in Egypt but around the world. This is a part of the show that I see growing in the near future.
As well as the MICE programme, we’ll also have our largest-ever programme of seminars at MTF. The feedback from last year’s visitors was clear – they want more value-added attractions and features, particularly seminars and information on market trends. Already confirmed to speak at MTF are Diego Lofeudo from Expedia who will give practical advice in a session on Online Tour Operating, Gautam Sen Gupta of Market Vision who will detail the Habits & Behaviour of the UAE outbound traveller and Elhamy El Zayat from Emeco Travel who will present a session on the Egyptian Incentive Travel Market.
MTF creates a forum that is more than just networking; it’s where contracts are negotiated and exchanged, where decision-makers come to source new products and services. Another major step is that Tunisia will be the first-ever feature country at the exhibition.

What will MTF do for the travel and tourism industry in the Eastern Mediterranean region?
Travel and tourism in the Eastern Mediterranean region is developing at an impressive rate as more and more visitors are coming to countries such as Egypt to take advantage of the climate, culture and resort leisure. International trade professionals attending the world-renowned event will be able to discover more about the new services and facilities in the region at innovative stands and displays.

Has there been an increase in the number of exhibitors?
Twenty nine countries will be represented at the event – more than ever before – with new countries such as Cuba and Kenya attracting buyer’s interest. There will be almost 40 new exhibitors, showing the diversity and choice available for intra-regional and international buyers attending the show. Buyers who pre register on our website are our clearest way of trying to predict the size of audience at the show and we have seen an increase of almost 25 per cent on last year. This is an encouraging sign for MTF and all its exhibitors.
Ghana and Kenya, who are new exhibitors at the show, will be Africa’s first official presence. Other new exhibitors include Thailand, Korea and a return by Malaysia to the event. What’s more, there has been a significant increase in attendance from leading hotels and travel agent businesses including Accor, Sonesta, Four Seasons Egypt, Starwood, Travel Ways Egypt, Travco, Millennium Hotels and Wings Tours. There is also a significant increase in stand space.

Did you consider cancelling the show following the recent blasts in Sharm El Sheikh?
Obviously, when we heard the news we were shocked. We immediately issued a statement and prepared ourselves for enquiries from world tourism buyers, exhibitors and the press. We explained to them that we were working with the government of Egypt and taking all steps to ensure their security. The safety of the exhibitors and all the visitors to the show is our number one priority.

Were there are any apprehensions from visitors and exhibitors?
Visitors and exhibitors were not put off by the recent act of terrorism in the region. It is interesting how places around the world are bouncing back so quickly both from natural disasters and terrorist attacks and Egypt has proved to be no different. MTF is the must-attend platform for networking with key travel professionals from hundreds of international destinations and exhibitors didn’t want to lose the opportunity of being at this unique exhibition.

How will the government of Egypt use the exhibition to promote the country to the world?
The government of Egypt has lots of things to put forward and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, which is our partner, will use the opportunity to promote the country and announce that it is safe. At the show, there will be an Egyptian pavilion, which will house the Egyptian Tourist Authority, the Egyptian Travel Agent Association, the Egyptian Hotel Association and all Governorates. The exciting new pavilion, in the shape of pyramid, is sure to catch everyone’s attention.

What do you think Egypt needs to do to further improve its tourism industry?
Well, Egypt has been very focused on improving the quality of its tourism services and visitors are responding positively to this by returning time and time again and encouraging others to visit. It’s important for the world’s travel industry to learn about these developments and see what this market has to offer. An example of improvements in servicing is seen in the launch of a mystery shopper programme by the Egyptian Hotels Association in conjunction with the country’s Ministry of Tourism, which will ensure hotel rating are accurate and up to date.

Any major announcements we could expect from exhibitors at the show?
A number of exhibitors will be making announcements or launching new products at the event, guaranteeing that visitors will be first to hear the news. Among others, the Syrian Ministry of Tourism will be announcing a new festival and a number of new cruises and special tour packages.