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Sun 9 Dec 2007 11:06 AM

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Getting down to business

The inaugural Business Travel Show Dubai proved a roaring success with exhibitors generating strong sales leads from top corporate travel buyers.

The Business Travel Show Dubai opened its doors for the very first time on October 29 and proved an immediate hit with exhibitors and buyers alike.

More than 2300 corporate travel buyers from across the region attended the show, exceeding the target of 2000 anticipated by organiser Centaur Exhibitions.

We have already re-booked more than 80% of this year’s event for 2008, which is a fantastic start

The only complaint from the 48 exhibiting companies, which represented a number of corporate travel services, from airlines to Travel Management Companies (TMCs), was that the visitor profile was too Dubai-centric.

At time of press, Centaur Exhibitions had not provided details of visitor source markets. But event director Sally Maltby said: "When we look at the breakdown of where our visitors came from we will be able to see which areas and also which job titles we need to target more heavily for 2008.

We have already re-booked more than 80% of this year's event for 2008, which is a fantastic start, so we have increased our space with the venue and will look at extended opening hours.

Maltby added: "We will also look at a wider variety of networking events, as well as the content of our educational programme so we ensure we move with the market and provide visitors from all over the Middle East with a wide variety of reasons to attend.

The Business Travel Show Dubai was staged at the Madinat Jumeriah Arena from October 29-30 under the patronage of HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline and Group and president of Dubai Department of Civil Aviation.

The show has been running for 14 years in the UK, and for four years in Germany, but was established in Dubai under a joint venture agreement between Centaur Exhibitions and Dnata World of Events Dubai.

It provided the opportunity for corporate travel suppliers to showcase their products and services to those who buy or manage company travel.

The decision to sponsor and exhibit was taken to position ourselves as the leading travel management company in this region," explained Dnata Travel Services divisional senior vice president Iain Andrew.
Dnata is a one-stop-shop for all travel requirements; we were one of the first travel companies to set up in Dubai, we have now established our presence in other parts of the region such as Kuwait, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and soon in Oman and Qatar, and we feel it's important to show our support to the industry by supporting the show.

Exhibiting companies that took part included local carriers such as Emirates Airline, Etihad Holidays and Qatar Airways, as well as low cost carriers (LCCs) such as KSA's Sama and Sharjah-based Air Arabia; international carriers including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Austrian, Air France/KLM and Cathay Pacific; specialist airlines such as all-business class carrier Silverjet and private jet firm Al Khayala; as well as global TMCs such as Carlson Wagonlit Travel and HRG, and regional TMCs including Kuwait-based Alshamel Travel and Sharjah-headquartered Orient Travel.

The regional airlines said the show gave them the opportunity to highlight the Middle East was developing as a hub for non-stop flights to virtually any point around the world.

Qatar Airways general manager commercial Ali Al Rais stressed how the Gulf's modern airports, economic infrastructure and its ambitious growth plans made it a highly attractive centre for conducting world business.

The carrier was a Gold Sponsor of the show and used the event to promote its "five-star" products and services, including a first class flat bed seat used on long-haul flights.

Not to be outdone, BA and Virgin also took the opportunity to showcase their flatbed products in Club World and Upper Class respectively.

Dnata's Andrew emphasised the travel show's educational role: "The travel industry in Dubai is thriving and the city is without doubt an exciting destination with a huge amount of potential. In saying that, there is a definite need to educate and increase knowledge in this fast growing market," he said.

With this in mind, the event ran a series of seminars for corporate travel buyers across both days addressing topics spanning corporate travel policies; using the internet to book corporate travel; how to get the best airfare deals; why the way corporate pay their travel agent is changing and the impact of low cost carriers and budget hotels.

ATN and The Business Travel Show also joined forces to stage a roundtable between three airlines and five TMCs on day two of the event. See pages 16-18 for more information.

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