An impressive line-up of speakers, made up of the region’s industry chiefs including Emirates chairman and president of Dubai Civil Aviation, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and travel and tourism professionals gathered on the first day of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2013 to hear the industry leaders as they discussed regional growth over the last two decades and what the future may bring.
Moderated by ameinfo.com broadcaster Phil Blizzard, the panel consisted of Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), Thierry Antinori, executive vice president, passenger sales worldwide, Emirates airline, Iain Andrew, divisional senior vice president, Dnata, Marwan Al Sarkal, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Gerald Lawless, president and group CEO, Jumeirah Group and Mark Walsh, portfolio director of Reed Travel Exhibitions.
Commenting on the 20th anniversary of ATM this year, Sheikh Ahmed said that travel and tourism had become the bedrock of Dubai’s economy over the past years since the event was inaugurated back in May 1994.
“The Arabian Travel Market has played a significant role in the development of Dubai, underscoring its position as a highly attractive centre for exhibitions and events,” he said. “Dubai has achieved so much at a pace that many other cities can only dream of. Dubai’s Strategic Plan builds on those achievements and highlights a number of areas, such as the economy, infrastructure and the environment.”
Walsh, meanwhile, said the growth of the event had mirrored that of the emirate, jumping from just 300 exhibitors in 1994 to more than 3,000 this year – during a period when Emirates’ passenger traffic rose from 1.9 million to 40 million last year.
Lawless emphasised that the creation of Emirates had a key role in opening up Dubai for both leisure and business tourism: “So much of the success (of Dubai) is associated with Emirates, since air lift is vital,” he said.
Other recent achievements cited by the panellists include including a number one position for international passenger traffic achieved by Dubai International Airport in the first quarter 2013; a growth of 54 per cent in Russian visitors and 28 per cent from China in 2012; an additional 30 aircraft and 15 new destinations for Emirates in the past year with a target of 180 by 2020, and, double-digit growth in visitor numbers to Dubai to reach 10 million for the first time last year.
With Dubai now announcing its new visitor target for 2020 is 20 million, DTCM’s Almarri said that this figure would be significantly enhanced should the emirate win its bid to host the World Expo 2020, a decision on which is due to be announced in November this year.
“In the past eight years, we have doubled the number of tourists and become the seventh most visited city globally, growth rates ahead are expected to be the same as those achieved in the past years and these may rise,” he said.
Emphasising the dynamics of future growth, Sheikh Ahmed said for Dubai, it would be more of the same successful formula.
“As long as we build the infrastructure in Dubai, we will not constrain growth and this is our key advantage Our job is to complement others (in the region), not only in the UAE but in neighbouring countries too – what is a plus to us is a plus to them and we can sell each other and all benefit by working together,” he said.
In his comments on the show, Walsh said that the ATM would continue to reflect the dynamic growth of Dubai and Emirates. “While quantity (in terms of visitor numbers) is important, quality is what it is all about and it was heartening to see that business formerly done at ITB every March is now being done in Dubai in May at this event.
“We will continue to be a one-stop shop to cater to all travel and tourism needs,” he added.
With such positive anticipating for the future, all the speakers emphasised the contribution of partnership as a key factor in the region’s success, with airlines, hotels, government and private sectors all working together to support growth.
By Karen Osman
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.