Dubai show highlights pan-Arab travel boom

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (eTN) – Inter-Arab tourism is clearly on the rise. Inbound and outbound tourism has definitely been contained in the region which boasts reaching a peak in infrastructure and hospitality service.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (eTN) – Inter-Arab tourism is clearly on the rise. Inbound and outbound tourism has definitely been contained in the region which boasts reaching a peak in infrastructure and hospitality service.

And if the Middle East is to continue to achieve unprecedented inbound tourism growth, regional countries need to ensure their product offerings compliment one another, said HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and chairman of the Emirates Airline Group at the opening of the 15th Arabian Travel Market, the Middle East’s premier travel and tourism event.

“Tourism is booming across the Middle East, not only here in the UAE. However, this growth can only continue if we take a consolidated approach to make sure that each country’s individual tourism products and domestic strategies compliment one another,” said Sheikh Ahmed.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, ruler of Dubai, and under the auspices of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Government of Dubai, the Arabian Travel Market 2008 opened May 6 in Dubai, has the largest ever exhibitor base of 2,208, participants from 70 countries – an eight percent increase on the 2007 edition. Regional bookings for 2008’s show are up five percent on last year, with representation from all Middle East countries – a show first – signaling a strengthening of the region’s diverse tourism propositions. Numbers continue to pick up due to the unprecedented growth in hotels in the Middle East and the exchange in tourism happening almost internally.

“Over the years, the ATM has evolved in tandem with the regional travel and tourism industry’s growth and development,” Richard Mortimore, managing director of Reed Travel Exhibitions, the show’s organizer, said. “The show’s evolution has been a continuing process and reflects the Middle East emergence as one of the world’s most prominent and exciting tourism hubs.”

According to Mortimore, increased regional and international exhibitor participation is a clear indication of this market’s expansion. “Diversification of the products and services on display further underlines the industry’s growing dynamism and competitiveness.”

Dubai’s tourist lure is duty free shopping. Here, tourists love to spend money on tax-free goods, of all activities any traveler loves to do in any destination. A major part of the growth in tourism can be attributed to Dubai’s premier shopping and entertainment events: the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises.

Launched in 1996, the Dubai Shopping Festival positioned Dubai as a leading tourism destination, stimulating economic and tourism sectors in the city. The concept was the first of its kind in the region proven to be a successful close cooperation between government and the private sector. It has snowballed Dubai’s receipts and visitor numbers, from AED 2.15 billion in spends and 1.6 million visitors to AED 10.2 billion in spends and 3.5 million tourists in just 43 days in 2006/2007.

During the hottest months of summer, tourists flock to Dubai, to shop. This is why in 1998; the city launched the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS), conceived as a highlight family entertainment during the summer for the Gulf countries and the Middle East. Targeted at visitors from within the UAE and without, the DSS has grown tourism traffic from 600,000 visitors and AED 850 million in spends in 1998 to 2.16 million visitors and AED 3.08 billion expenditures last year. The DSS is designed to cater to children and families within the region, attracting several visitor segments over the summer and concentrating on the core aspects of shopping, winning and family happenings all within 10 weeks.

Executing the government’s policy of positioning Dubai on the world map as an unmatched tourist and business haven, the Dubai Shopping Festival created Dubai’s big shopping events to go hand-in-hand with Dubai’s goal of attracting 15 million tourists by year 2010.

Projections seem realistic as long as the Arab countries bond together to retain their internal visitors.

“When we started 15 years ago, it was much smaller, but the growth over the last decade has been staggering. To see this year that it has over 2,000 exhibitors from across the world, with a stronger regional participation, is a signal that future growth will be phenomenal,” added Sheikh Ahmed.

(US$0.27=AED 1.00)

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.