ATM blazes new trail

The results are in. The Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the leading regional travel trade show which held its 30th edition last month
in Dubai, broke previous records with 40,000 attendees, a 5 per cent increase over pre-pandemic 2019 figures

Rural Tourism: Taking Tourists Off the Beaten Track in session… (from left to right) TTN Middle East Editor Rashi Sen, German National Tourist Office (GNTO) Gulf Countries Director Yamina Sofo, Switzerland Tourism Director GCC Matthias Albrecht, Bhutan Department of Tourism Director General Dorji Dhradhul and Emily Jenkins, Head of Product Development at DW Travel

The recently concluded 30th edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) set a new show record, welcoming more than 40,000 attendees, reflecting an increase of 29 per cent compared to 2022, and 5 per cent increase over 2019.

In line with ATM 2023’s theme, ‘Working Towards Net Zero’, more than 2,100 exhibitors and representatives from over 150 countries gathered at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) to explore how the industry can ensure sustainable travel for future generations.

ATM 2023 was held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre, and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner.

To mark three decades of ATM, there were a number of special events on the agenda during the four-day exhibition.

TTN Middle East, for its part, organised a roundtable at Arabian Travel Market titled ‘Rural Tourism: Taking Tourists Off the Beaten Track’. On the panel, we had representatives from three tourism-governance boards and a Dubai-based travel agency to provide rural tourism insights from the perspective of the travel trade.

The panellists included Yamina Sofo, Director, German National Tourist Office (GNTO) Gulf Countries; Matthias Albrecht, Director GCC Switzerland Tourism; Dorji Dhradhul, Director General, Department of Tourism – Bhutan, the only carbon-negative country in the world; Emily Jenkins, Head of Product Development at DW Travel.

The panellists talked about some of the unique experiences, activities, accommodations and opportunities that people enjoy in the countryside and explored opportunities for luxury travel in the rural sector. While Germany mentioned opportunities for outlet shopping in the outskirts, Switzerland talked about its wellness resorts and adventure travel portfolio. Bhutan focused on unique offerings such as making cookies with monks in a monastery and DW Travel spoke about the rise in off the beaten track travel opportunities, citing examples from the UAE and beyond.

Apart from sharing insights into their rural tourism portfolio, panellists talked about how sustainable rural tourism is, how it can play an important part in preventing overcrowding, how it affords an organic growth of a country’s tourism portfolio, how it creates jobs for often under developed and impoverished rural areas.

Panellists also threw light on various farm to table, back to nature itineraries that may be built around rural travel, focusing on public transport as a great way to remain sustainable and stay longer within destinations. While Switzerland discussed its Swisstainable programme, clean drinking water and Swiss Rail, Germany shared insight into its accessible travel landscape. Bhutan shared traveller feedback on its sustainable development fee and how that goes back to the people in a utopian example of circular economy.

Panellists talked about the importance of sound infrastructure in enabling any rural tourism product. Typically, an inbound traveller would land in a gateway city airport and will have to travel long distances to reach some rural areas. Secondly, the destinations themselves need to be equipped with roads/accommodation for tourism to flourish.

Arabian Travel Market will return next year from May 6 to 9.