Bahrain expo sees 25pc rise in floor space

The Bahrain International Travel Expo 2007 is moving from strength to strength, Unitag’s Jamil Wafa tells SREEKRISHNA BHAT

THE Bahrain International Travel Expo (BITE 2007) is expected to attract more than a hundred exhibitors for the first time ever and witness a 25 per cent increase in floor space, thanks to a tremendous response from the travel trade.

As many as 110 exhibitors will be present at the 2007 edition, compared to 81 the previous year, while floor space will increase from 4,900sqm to 6,500sqm.
BITE will be held from May 8 to 10 at the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre (BIEC). It will feature new MICE, hosted buyers and educational initiatives.
With less than two months to go, more than 80 per cent of floor space has been reserved, according to Magnum Events and Exhibitions Management (MEEM), an affiliate of the Unitag Group, which is organising the show.
This year’s event is being held under the theme ‘Bringing the World to Bahrain’, says Unitag chairman Jamil Wafa, the inspiration behind the event.
“We are complementing the efforts of the government to promote Bahrain to the world,” says Wafa, an expert in the tourism field, who turns 75 this April.
Launched in 2005 with 1,100 sq m of space and 40 local and international participants, BITE grew to 4,900 sq m last year attracting 81 exhibitors and 16,800 visitors.
Speaking on the challenges of organising an event of this magnitude in Bahrain, Wafa says: “When we launched the show two years ago we had no idea how successful the event would turn out be. Today we are proud that we have been able to give something unique to Bahrain.”
From day one, Wafa’s focus has been quality. “Standards matter the most,” he explains. “Numbers will come once we have the quality.”
And true to his belief, the exhibition will grow to 6,500 sq m this year while visitor numbers are expected to cross the 20,000 mark with exhibitors from 33 countries participating.
“We have received endless support and encouragement from HH the Crown Prince, under whose patronage the event is held. BITE is also actively supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Tourism Affairs of the Ministry of Information, which have played a key role in its success,” continues Wafa.
Now, the organisers have launched an aggressive marketing drive across the Middle East, Asia and Europe to position the show as a quality international event.
BITE offers a unique opportunity for visitors to meet leading travel and tourism providers from various countries; allows them to obtain the latest information about the travel and tourism industry; plan packages suited for holiday and business requirements; and to extend and strengthen business network with old and new suppliers.
The range of exhibitors at the show will include airlines, car rental companies, cruise liners, health resorts and spas, hotels, health facilities, MICE organisers, tourist attractions, tourism boards and tour operators.
BITE 2007 will put the spotlight on MICE and hosted buyers. A dedicated, larger area within the exhibition has been earmarked for the MICE sector, while a committee of various private and public sector organisations in Bahrain has been formed to plan a strategy for the hosted buyers programme.
“We expect 90 high-profile MICE buyers and corporate event organ-isers, as well as 15 international travel writers to attend the event,” says Wafa, adding that Travel & Tourism News (TTN) magazine will be the official media partner for the show.
Another highlight of BITE 2007 will be a new ‘Study Abroad’ section, which will spotlight various options for students seeking higher education.
More than 10 new countries and regions will participate in BITE 2007, apart from those who had taken part in the previous year. The newcomers include Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Iran, the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India, Jordan, Kuwait, Monaco, Morocco, Switzerland and Tunisia.
 “It is an international arena – an event which is neat and well-attended. We are different from other events in the region, it has a different flavour and outlook,” says Wafa.
Commenting on the steps needed to boost tourism in Bahrain, he says it’s essential that all stakeholders such as the airlines, travel agents, hotels, the tourism authority, the municipality and others worked collectively and addressed issues in a professional manner.