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Wed 11 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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Show and tell

ATN asked three high-profile luxury travel buyers to assess their experience at the recent ILTM show in Cannes and to predict luxury travel market trends for 2009.

ATN asked three high-profile luxury travel buyers to assess their experience at the recent ILTM show in Cannes and to predict luxury travel market trends for 2009.

How did the show compare to previous years?

Adams:ILTM is always important for Dnata Holidays and this year was no exception. The luxury sector has become increasingly keen to tap into the Middle Eastern market and this year all eyes seemed to be on the GCC; not least because the region is perceived to be less affected by the global economic crisis than many other areas of the world.

Our customers tell us they want every aspect of their trip to be an experience in its own right.

Balsom:It's clear the industry sees the Middle East as a key target market in the current climate and I was very encouraged by the level of interest that Luxury Hotels by Dnata received.

Aloke, as a first-time visitor, what were your impressions of the show?

Dey:The show was perfectly organised in every way - I could not have asked for anything more.

I thought that ILTM provided a good platform for networking to discover the available wealth for the luxury travel business across the globe.

What kind of luxury products and services did you attend ILTM to source?

Balsom:Luxury Hotels by Dnata is seeking to represent five-star hotels that would benefit from our expert knowledge of the Middle East and our unrivalled partnerships and contacts within the region.

Adams:We'd listened to what our customers wanted for 2009 and based on their feedback, took this opportunity to source new destinations and products to complement our extensive portfolio.

Dey:Tourism boards, DMCs, properties including eco-friendly hotels, special interest tours, cruises and luxury trains etc.

What kind of luxury products and services will the Middle East's luxury travellers demand in 2009?

Balsom:Our customers tell us they want every aspect of their trip to be an experience in its own right.

They expect a seamless service that reflects the price tag and is tailored to their individual requirements.

Adams:We expect the luxury sector to hold up well in the Middle East in 2009 with High Net Worth Individuals and families continuing to travel widely, typically to popular destinations within Europe and the Indian Ocean. We also think the US will do well this year, particularly with several new, direct flights starting from the Middle East.

Dey:New destinations and properties that offer optimal facilities and experiences for families, FITs and groups.

Will the credit crunch make a difference to the Middle East's outbound luxury market?

Balsom:No region of the world will be immune from the crisis but there are many Emirati families for whom the global credit crunch isn't a factor. These families will continue to travel  and will be looking for the highest quality products and services.

Adams:Dnata Holidays is already starting to see new trends emerge in the short-break market, with customers turning to more affordable destinations such as Sri Lanka, Jordan, Oman and across the UAE.

About ILTM

The seventh edition of International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM), which is organised by Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), was staged at Le Palais des Festivals et des Congrès from December 8-11.

Around 1450 providers of luxury travel products and services and almost as many luxury travel buyers took part. Middle East buyers in attendance represented companies such as Dnata Holidays, Sharaf Travel, Destinations of the World, Mooreh Tours, Platin and MMI, while exhibitors from the region included the tourism authorities of Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Oman, as well as hotel companies such as the Jumeirah Group and Emirates Hotels & Resorts.

ILTM 2009 will take place at the same venue from December 7-10. ILTM's sister show, Asia Luxury Travel Market (ALTM) 2009, will be staged in Shanghai, China, from June 15-18. Visit www.iltm.net

Our forward bookings are also starting to show a trend for the aspiring luxury traveller to opt for destinations within Asia and Africa, where luxury hotels and resorts are usually more affordable.

Dey:In all upscale market segments, numbers may not drop but clients will expect better value.

What are the hot travel destinations for luxury travellers in 2009?

The Middle East is seen as much less exposed to the economic crisis and therefore a real target area for the luxury sector.

Balsom:Europe is always a popular destination for the Middle Eastern luxury traveller and the strengthening of the dirham makes European cities such as London, Paris and Milan a particularly attractive proposition at the moment.

Adams:Malaysia, Thailand and other Asian countries like Bali are leading the way in 2009, while Sri Lanka, Jordan and Oman will be the biggest winners in the short-break market.

Dey:I feel there will be an increase in traffic towards the US and South America, Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavian countries may be sought after. Much depends on us travel agents to create awareness for new destinations and properties.

What was the general mood of exhibitors at ILTM?

Balsom:The general mood was cautious; many felt it was a case of having to wait and see what the New Year would bring.

Adams:The majority of suppliers were hesitant about how 2009 would unfold and most had already seen a drop in business from core markets within the US and Europe. This has put a spotlight on the GCC with suppliers keen to establish key partnerships with Dnata.

Was it easier to negotiate deals with suppliers at this year's event compared to previous years?

Balsom:There was a definite eagerness to explore key emerging markets.

The Middle East is seen as much less exposed to the economic crisis and therefore a real target area for the luxury sector.

Adams:Dnata Holidays secured increased allotments, lower release dates, better rates and special offers for the key travel periods in 2009 as the market becomes more competitive.

Dey:Suppliers were very flexible and co-operative and we all ended on a ‘win win' note.

Luxury travel trends

Luxury travel buyers at ILTM 2008 noted the following luxury trends for 2009:

• High Net Worth Individuals will still travel but will demand better value for money.

• Many Arab National families are immune from the global credit crisis and will travel.

• There will be an increased interest in North America due to the increase in direct flights from the Gulf to US destinations.

• Asia will remain top pick as it offers best value for money, with emerging destinations including Bali.

• With the US dollar and Gulf currencies strong against Pounds Sterling and the Euro, traditional European city destinations will make a resurgence.

• Sri Lanka, Jordan and Oman will be the biggest winners in the short-break market.

• Luxury travellers now demand that every aspect of their trip is an experience in its own right.

• Luxury travellers will expect a seamless service that reflects the price tag and is tailored to their individual requirements.

• All luxury travel providers are cautious about what 2009 will bring and are therefore seeking stronger partnerships with agents and operators and securing favourable deals.

• As many prime source markets such as Europe dry up, luxury travel providers are looking to the Middle East for business.

 

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