More than 40,000 people attended the 30th edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which ran from May 1-4 in Dubai, UAE. The attendance represented a year-on-year increase of 29 percent compared to 2022 and a 5 percent increase over 2019, demonstrating that the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector is booming.
Themed “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.
Danielle Curtis, exhibition director ME of Arabian Travel Market, said: “My colleagues and I are thrilled that so many tourism professionals were able to join us in Dubai to celebrate the 30th edition of the show and shine a spotlight on our sector’s ongoing journey to net zero. The fact that we witnessed record attendance at ATM 2023 is extremely encouraging and a strong indication that the Middle East’s travel industry is once again in excellent shape.”
To mark three decades of ATM, there were several special events on the agenda during the four-day exhibition. Hilton won the inaugural Sustainable Stand Award. Selected by an independent panel of judges, the hospitality brand was chosen for its decision to use a local supplier in the creation of its stand as well as its commitment to repurposing materials as much as possible over the coming three years. Hilton also used a carbon calculator to measure the carbon footprint associated with its involvement in the show and has taken steps to mitigate this output.
The Pearl Award was also created exclusively for the 30th edition of ATM and awarded to Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, for his outstanding contribution to the travel and tourism sector in the UAE. McLoughlin began his career at Dubai Duty Free in 1983 and has since helped to transform the organisation into a USD2 billion company.
Moderated by Eleni Giokos, anchor and CNN correspondent, the show’s opening session delved into a climate change debate as tourism heads took to the Global Stage. The prestigious lineup of speakers included Sujit Mohanty, regional division for the Arab States at UNDRR, Dr. Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, MD of Jordan Tourism Board and H.E. Walid Nassar, Lebanon’s Minister of Tourism.
The highlights of the event were:
The ITIC Middle East Tourism Investment session explored the economic outlook for regional tourism, the session also delved into the relationship between sustainability and investment in the sector, as well as the growing opportunities for women in the Middle East, focusing on Oman as a case study. Saudi Arabia turned out to be a particular growth area for the GCC region with the Kingdom recording 93.5 million tourists in 2022. The tourism industry in KSA is seen as a transformational sector when it comes to meeting sustainability goals and the sustainability aspect is now front and center when it comes to investment in the Kingdom. As for Oman which is helping to diversify the economy and create employment opportunities for the local population. As part of its efforts to boost the tourism industry in the region, the Oman government established the Oman Tourism College in 2001. When the facility first opened, there were approximately 80 female students, and this number has risen to 400 in 2023. Women now work across several areas of the local tourism industry with roles in hotels, airlines, restaurants and tours.
The “Sustainable Luxury: At What Cost?” session included a range of insights into how luxury travel is leading the tourism industry’s sustainable charge in the Middle East. Panelists agreed that decarbonization will require significant financial backing, but warned the luxury travel industry cannot afford to ignore sustainability Experts asserted that guests no longer see sustainability as a compromise within luxury travel and are now demanding environmentally responsible offerings. Luxury brands must also focus on how they can positively impact surrounding communities socially and economically, according to speakers at ATM 2023.
“Hospitality Debate: What More Can Big Data Unlock?” featured a range of expert insights into the power of data to improve guest experiences within the Middle East’s hospitality sector. Experts found that data is having a transformative effect on hospitality across the Middle East and beyond. However, leading hoteliers speaking emphasized that human intervention remains essential if owners and operators wish to derive genuine value from the information being gathered.