‘We will make ATM more popular’

Matt Thompson, group exhibition director of RTE, organisers of ATM 2004, on the region’s premier travel and tourism event
Thompson … ‘ATM 2004 will have 25 pc more floor space’

WHAT will be the highlights of the Arabian Travel Market 2004 (ATM)?
ATM 2004, which will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from May 4-7, is bigger.

It has newcomers, expanded pavilions and mirrors a renewed air of confidence throughout the whole of the travel and tourism market. We have 25 per cent more floor space, some 1,200 exhibitors – the largest number ever in the event’s 11-year history – and a surge in visitor pre-registrations, at least half of which, I am delighted to say, are from people who have not yet attended an ATM.
This year’s show is also likely to benefit from the staging of the 4th Global Travel & Tourism Summit (GTTS) in Doha, Qatar, from May 1-3, days before the ATM. It will turn the international industry’s attention to the Gulf in the first week of May.

What are the reasons that ATM is growing bigger every year?
Malaysia and India have substantially increased the size of their stands – both, I think, are looking towards their relative close proximity to the Middle East spurring tourists from this region to their countries. Returning to the show after an absence last year are France, Bulgaria, Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong.

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Obviously, the Asian nations had problems with SARS last year and they are now returning. Abu Dhabi and Iran will have official representation for the first time – just two of a host of Middle East organisations present. Syria will have its largest ATM presence this year. Others which have increased their stand sizes are the Czech Republic, the Government of Dubai and Egypt. The increased presence from Greece has come about as the country moves closer to the staging of the Athens 2004 Olympics in August.

What are the challenges when organising an event like this?
Clearly, we have the experience in depth to manage such an event and make it even more popular every year at a time when the Middle East travel and tourism market is the fastest expanding in the world. Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), which is part of Reed Exhibitions (RX), organises 13 events worldwide. 
What role has ATM played in focusing attention on the Middle East since the MICE market is becoming a big draw?
The MICE industry has been prioritised in the ATM’s hosted-buyer programme for the past two years and this year will see 50 international MICE buyers attend the show. The MICE focus has come about at the request of exhibitors, which is an indication of the potential the industry sees from this sector.
The Middle East has already established itself as a leisure destination and is now growing as a business and meetings centre. The largest growth in  International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) membership worldwide has come from the Middle East and, over the past three years, the number of ICCA members in the meetings and conference industry in the Middle East has risen by 200 per cent.

What steps are needed to further boost tourism in the region?
The Middle East is the fastest growing tourism market in the world at the moment and there are a number of developments in the region that will boost the industry in the coming year, ranging from events like the Formula One circuit coming to Bahrain to the numerous projects in Dubai such as Dubailand and the Emaar projects.

How do you attract new participants?
Internationally, there is greater awareness of the value of the Middle East outbound industry and new entrants are coming into the market to try and attract their share, while longer-established players are looking to retain loyal clientele and win new business.