Opinions may vary on how successful the 2007 installment of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) proved for delegates, but most concur the event was an improvement on the 2006 edition and more importantly, proved the growth potential and the professional approach of the Middle East's travel and tourism industry.
"International visitors said this region is growing so fast and we were proving that at ATM in a very professional way," said Mark Walsh, incoming group exhibitions director - overseas events for Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) who was responsible for organising ATM for the first time this year.
"It was certainly one of the most spectacular shows I have ever seen in terms of quality of design."
Stands such as the Emirates Groups' giant globe, which stood 9.5-metres high and boasted a 484m² footprint impressed the crowds, as did Dubailand's life-size dinosaur.
But while the stands created interest and intrigue the layout of the exhibition once again failed to please everyone.
Everyone agreed that the real estate component was well controlled - confined to one area and featuring tourism-related projects only - but 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).
"That hall (10 and 11) is a problem in terms of getting traffic flow going through," conceded Walsh.
"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 planned to review the times and the days that 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 exhibitiors."
These are just some of the issues to be discussed with exhibitors as Walsh and his team begin to de-brief. RTE plans to put together a panel of top buyers and exhibitors involved in ATM to consult with them on improvements and in addition, questionnaires will be sent out to every delegate that attended the 2007 installment.
At time of press, no audited visitor numbers had been revealed, but Walsh confirmed that attendance was up 8.2% on last year. Preliminary statistics reveal a 10.4% increase in overseas visitors and a 5.3% hike in local visitors.
"But it's not just about numbers; most exhibitors said they really noticed an improvement in the quality of buyers attending ATM this year," said Walsh.
He noted that 370 main stand holders and more than 2000 stand sharers took part in ATM 2007 compared to 330 and 1750 in 2006. They occupied 24,600m², up 24% on last year.
Tom Nutley, chairman, RTE, said the aim was to fill every hall at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) next year and that further growth would be attainable once ATM moved to Dubai Exhibition World in Jebel Ali in 2010.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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