Dubai: The 24th annual Arabian Travel Market (ATM) opened on Monday at a time of change in the industry and as industry professionals gathered in Dubai to discuss key trends affecting the global market.
The event was inaugurated by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
Running from April 24 to April 27, ATM 2017 will see travel trade professionals from across the world’s hospitality industry descend upon Dubai for the opening day of the event, held at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
The event is expected to welcome over 40,000 industry professionals from over 152 countries and 2,600 exhibitors. In its last edition in 2016, around $2.5 billion worth of deals were signed at ATM.
The event this year will focus on the latest industry trend of experiential travel, which encompasses travelling for adventure, culture, heritage, wellness, and theme parks. It is also expected to see announcements from developers and operators across the UAE as they prepare for Expo 2020.
ATM, however, amid a slowdown in the travel market due to a strengthening US dollar (to which the UAE dirham is pegged) coupled with weaker currencies in key source markets such as Europe, the UK, and Russia.
Costly trips abroad for many due to the strong dollar, travel restrictions to the US, and a focus on “experiential” travel are all forcing tourism and leisure companies to rethink their approach to the region.
Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said in a statement: “the growth and scale of ATM 2017 is testament to the buoyant travel and tourism industry here in the Mena region. It is no secret the growth we observe in the regional industry is spurred by visionary national agendas and a favourable and thriving business environment. With a series of mega-events scheduled for the coming years, including Expo 2020, this growth will undoubtedly continue.”
The travel and tourism sector has is becoming increasingly important to the UAE’s plans of a post-oil economy. In 2015, the sector made up 8.7 per cent of the country’s total GDP, a figure that is expected to rise to 11.2 per cent of GDP in 2026.
According to BNC Network, a project database, as of 2017 there were 1,153 active hospitality projects in the region, with 62 projects, valued at $2.48 billion, added to the list in the first quarter of this year.
The entire value of all 1,153 active hospitality projects in the region exceeds $148.4 billion, according to the company’s research.
One of the key themes at ATM 2017 is expected to be the rise of experiential travel, encompassing adventure, culture, heritage, health and wellness, sports, and theme parks.
More than 40,000 industry professionals, including 30,000 trade visitors, agreed deals worth $2.5 billion (Dh9.2 billion) at ATM 2016, and it is expected that ATM 2017 will welcome over 2,600 exhibitors — with 100 exhibiting for the first time — across 65 national pavilions.
The GCC’s hospitality industry currently constitutes 7 per cent of all active projects in the GCC’s urban construction sector.
“With Expo 2020 only three years away, we see dozens of ambitious projects being announced across the UAE. From airports to cities-within-cities, the country has a master plan for growth and development, including a pipeline of 160,000 hotel rooms, and it is vital that such plans are discussed in forums such as the ATM Global Stage 2017,” Press said.
This pipeline of hotel rooms is expected to usher in a slew of three star properties, after a decade of predominantly four and five star hotel openings.
“What is particularly important to remember is that tourism is a central pillar to the economic diversification of the UAE and its Middle East neighbours, which means tourism will continue to grow after Expo 2020 and the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar,” he added.