Middle East trade heralds the return of the physical Arab travel market as the push for recovery

The feeling of “back to business” prevails

THE physical return of the Arabian Travel Market to Dubai was touted as a signal of positive things to come for the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East. And while it wasn’t as busy as in previous years, the general feeling was that those who were there went with intention and purpose.

Mona Faraj, Managing Director of the Dubai-based company INsight Out Council, said she was filled with “pride and positivity” as she walked into the show. “A great start to the 1,000 mile journey and a victory that we should celebrate and be proud of as a region. Once again, the Middle East, represented by the United Arab Emirates and Dubai as regional leaders, has shown the world how we can and will return to in-person events and the value exhibits bring.

“Yes, it was smaller; yes, it had fewer international visitors; yes, fewer representatives per brand; yes, smaller stands for budget reasons but the ones that are there are there for business.

It was a sentiment shared by Mamoum Hmedan, Managing Director, Middle East of We’re going, “The number of visitors and ATM exhibitors both declined a bit this year, but it made it easier to get around and those in attendance were more serious about doing business. “

His boss Ross Veitch, CEO and co-founder of Wego, who had to miss his first ATM in 10 years due to travel restrictions from Singapore, said: week is a sign the MENA region will be one the first regions to rebound strongly. Wego is already seeing this reflected in our advance booking data, which is up significantly since the KSA reopened for international travel earlier this week. We expect this to continue to escalate as more Saudis get vaccinated and become eligible to travel again. “

Muzzammil Ahussain at the Seera group stand: “ATM was the boost the travel and tourism industry needed in the recovery phase.

Muzzammil Ahussain, Executive Vice President, Seera Group, called it a “natural transition to the industry event, as we have seen positive developments over the past few months on how the Middle East has dealt with the pandemic, taken precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus and deployed strong vaccination campaigns “.

“ATM was the boost that the travel and tourism industry needed in the recovery phase. “

For Dubai-based travel officials, attending a physical event was not so new to those who were not based in the UAE, Faraj said. “The UAE has returned to physical and international meetings since the end of 2020, so it’s not new to us, but to many others it was.”

Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, Senior Vice President, Middle East of caisse.com observed that although the event was obviously smaller, “KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) made sure to have a large and strong presence”.

For him, it was a nice break from the “distractions of daily Zoom calls and emails,” which reminded me of how important it is to maintain personal connections just by meeting someone you don’t. haven’t seen in ages. I’m lucky to still have a lot of freedom in the United Arab Emirates so this was not the first event.

“I have the impression that the exhibitors appreciated the visitors who walked around. It’s like when you go to a remote island which is very difficult to reach and which doesn’t have a lot of tourists but their neighbors have better infrastructure and the locals are super nice to you. “

Faraj said she had observed much wider lanes, disinfection stations as well as a vaccination station allowing residents of the UAE to take their first vaccine if they had not. “There was a feeling of ‘let’s get back to business’ so less of the PR and catching up like you often had on shows and more of’ how can we make business better? What are our opportunities?

The Seera Group took the opportunity to launch its partnership with Klook, which will see the two entities create a unique digital platform with end-to-end content and inventory management solutions as well as ALmosafer Concierge for Luxury travelers from Saudi Arabia.

Said Ahussain, “It was much busier than expected which is a good sign for what lies ahead and the future of tourism. You feel very safe because all measures have been taken to ensure the protection of delegates, exhibitors and participants. Honestly, it doesn’t look much different from two years ago.

“We have seen an interest in inbound tourism, given the large-scale projects undertaken by Saudi Arabia. Travelers finally have access to the Kingdom as it relaxes restrictions and opens up to tourism. We have seen considerable attention to travel overseas as well as from borders this week. “

Mahmoud Osama, Sales Manager, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, called hima well-organized event with added COVID security guidelines. It exceeded exhibitors’ expectations despite the limited number of visitors ”.

And he added: “It was exciting to reconnect again and we hope the travel industry in Abu Dhabi gets started very soon.”

At the event, Ali Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing at the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Culture and Tourism, announced that Abu Dhabi plans to remove Covid-19 quarantine restrictions for international travelers from July 1, with the exception of Indian visitors, and to extend its green travel list to stimulate tourism in the emirate.

“How are we going to move forward in 2021… Abu Dhabi will be open to everyone without a quarantine protocol from July 1,” he said. in this report. “We will welcome everyone to Abu Dhabi with a [travelling] protocol but no quarantine.

As to what they would have liked to have seen changed, Faraj said, “Exhibits won’t go back to 2019 levels in my opinion and I don’t think they should, but I want to see more tech companies and more destinations (they weren’t there due to travel restrictions) and every hotel brand presents as well.

Abbondandolo said he would have liked to see more exhibitors, “perhaps allowing ATMs to only sign up people with a vaccine / PCR.” I don’t know what the virtual ATM will be like, but I don’t think I’ll attend, it won’t make sense. “