By Gemma Greenwood
Organiser says UAE and MENA could be re-united in 2008 after rethink.
The footprint of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is under review yet again following complaints about the layout of the 2007 installment by exhibitors and exhibitors alike.
While most agreed that the real estate component was well controlled - confined to one area and featuring tourism-related projects only - the North African and Middle East exhibitors were somewhat disappointed with their lot.
They felt isolated in halls 10 and 11, on the opposite side of the concourse to the remainder of the exhibition and furthest away from their colleagues, the UAE, in hall 1 (Za'abeel Hall).
"I believe consumers and travel partners found it confusing and inconvenient that the UAE was separated rest of the Middle East countries this year," said Christine Jabourian, Gulf region representative, Six Senses Resorts & Spas, which was located in hall 11. "Many of our VIP clients and travel partners found the distance too far to commute from hall 1 to 11. On the consumer days we found traffic flow to be greatly reduced compared to previous years and this in our opinion was partly due to the layout of the halls."
Hossein Hosseini, director international affairs and route development, of Iranian airline Mahan Air, added: "ATM was a successful event for us, but I think halls 10-11 where we were located were out of the way and our traffic was far less than that experienced in halls 1-4."
Organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) conceded that a review of halls 10 and 11 could be required.
"Those halls are a problem in terms of getting traffic flow going through," said Mark Walsh, group exhibitions director - overseas.
"People have questioned why the Middle East and the UAE were not together and that's something we have to look at. We have to understand the sensitivity of the cultural connection [between the Middle East and UAE exhibitors]."
Walsh also revealed that RTE would review the time and the day the exhibition was open to consumers.
"I agree that the Thursday long day (10am-9pm) may have been confusing to the consumer and needs to be re-assessed," he said.
"We may stick to the trade on Thursday and make Friday a consumer day as the end-user is of paramount importance to the exhibitors."