Arabian Travel Market Day 2 Wrap Up

ATM 1 - Ministerial Debate - image courtesy of ATM
Ministerial Debate - image courtesy of ATM
Written by Linda Hohnholz

The 31st edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is being hosted at Dubai World Travel Centre (DWTC) until Thursday, May 9, in Dubai, with Day 2 highlighting these topics.

Tourism projected to account for 12% of UAE GDP this year, as GCC policymakers gather to discuss future of regional travel at ATM 2024

Gulf-wide collaboration, ease of inter-regional travel and infrastructure development were placed under the microscope at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024, which saw a selection of policymakers discuss the streamlining of the GCC’s thriving tourism industry.

H.E. Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy, noted the tourism sector’s growing contribution to the Emirates’ economy in his opening comments on ATM 2024’s Global Stage. “According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), our tourism sector has been a dynamic force within our economy, contributing an impressive 11.7% to GDP [in 2023], amounting to AED 220 billion,” H.E. Al Marri told attendees. “For 2024, the forecast is set even higher, with an anticipated contribution of 12% to the [UAE’s] GDP, equating to AED 236 billion.”

H.E. Al Marri’s speech was followed by a panel discussion between H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; H.E. Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority; H.E. Azzan Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of Tourism at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in Oman; and H.E. Sarah Buhijji, CEO of the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority. The session was moderated by Dubai Eye presenter, Richard Dean.

During the in-depth discussion, the ministerial panelists explored the importance of inter-regional initiatives in elevating the GCC tourism industry to the next level, while striking the right balance between collaboration and competition between destinations and nations. The planned GCC Unified Tourist Visa was cited as a key facilitator for the region, alongside factors such as sustainability, infrastructure and culture.

Panelists said that the planned unified visa would allow member nations to present the GCC as a connected destination, boosting accessibility and driving KPIs such as length of stay, average spend and employment. Speakers noted they would continue to ensure that the travel industry positively impacts local businesses, communities and ecosystems, contributing to the long-term sustainability of tourism across the region.

Participants also explained that current and future infrastructure will complement the GCC Unified Tourist Visa by enhancing accessibility within and between Gulf nations. In addition to ongoing investment in new and existing airports and cruise terminals, the ministerial speakers highlighted the central role of the upcoming GCC Railway in facilitating and optimizing region-wide access for both domestic and international visitors.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “While it’s clear that healthy competition will continue to play an important role in strengthening the GCC’s world-class tourism offering, it was also encouraging to hear how collaboration is enabling the region to become more than the sum of its parts in terms of attracting global travelers. We are immensely grateful to this year’s ministerial participants, who provided a diverse range of valuable insights into the region’s unified tourism future.”

The opening day of ATM 2024 featured 12 sessions across the Global and Future Stages. Welcoming attendees to the Global Stage today, H.E. Issam Abdulrahim Kazim, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, hosted the fascinating Global Stage Welcome: The Gateway to Global Insights session, outlining the key tourism objectives for Dubai for the coming years.

Meanwhile, the all-new Future Stage kicked off a week of innovation-focused sessions, including Branding in the AI Era: How Travel Brands Can Capture Wanderlust. and The New Age of Island Tourism

ATM 2 | eTurboNews | eTN

ATM 2024 experts examine Indian travel and tourism opportunities

India is rapidly emerging as a crucial source market for global tourism, driven by significant economic growth, demographic shifts, and infrastructural improvements, as highlighted on the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024 Future Stage, as the Middle East’s leading travel and tourism event returned to the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) for its 31st year.

During the session Unlocking the True Potential of Indian Travelers, Virendra Jain, CEO and Co-Founder of VIDEC, a travel, tourism and hospitality boutique advisory and analytics firm, shared key insights, including market opportunity assessments, channel and distribution analysis, characteristics and behaviors of Indian travelers and projections of Indian outbound travel trends over the next decade.

According to VIDEC’s 2023 Indian Traveler Behavior & Insights Report, over three-quarters of surveyed respondents prioritize travel and tourism for discretionary spending. The report also shows that 59% of Indian travelers prefer short weekend trips, and 79% choose domestic over international destinations. Of the international travelers, 84% were first-time travelers, with Thailand, the UAE and Singapore as the top destinations, chosen for their proximity, climate and cultural appeal.

Showcasing the findings of the report, which Jain co-authored with Deepak Jain, he said: “The primary motivator for these trips is the need for a break from daily life, with 33% of travelers seeking leisure escapes. Furthermore, 69% book flights well in advance, contrasting with last-minute intercity bus bookings. Coupled with India’s rising digital proficiency and infrastructural enhancements like the UDAN scheme, these trends are shaping India into a dynamic source market for global tourism, necessitating targeted engagement strategies to capitalize on this growth.”

Following the presentation, an India Market Insights Summit panel session took place on the ATM 2024 Global Stage featuring prominent speakers, including Ross Veitch, CEO & Co-Founder of Wego; Raj Rishi Singh, Chief Marketing Officer & Chief Business Officer – Corporate at MakeMyTrip; and Ankur Garg, Chief Commercial Officer at Air India Express. The speakers emphasized the strategic importance of understanding and targeting the Indian travel market with innovative and tailored marketing strategies, focusing on sectors such as air travel, hotels, rail, and intercity buses.

Commenting on the session’s impact, Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “Today’s discussion on the Indian travel market highlighted the wealth of opportunities and the strategic importance of nuanced marketing approaches that cater to the unique needs of Indian travellers. This session is a cornerstone for fostering deeper understanding and cooperation between Middle East travel professionals and Indian travel enterprises.”

Elsewhere at the ATM 2024 Market Insight Summit, panelists from leading hospitality brands, including LOTUS, Arabian Adventures, NexusCube and Trojena – NEOM, explored new sustainable developments, attractions and entertainment offerings that may open up new opportunities for the Americas.

Held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre, ATM 2024’s strategic partners include the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), Destination Partner; Emirates, Official Airline Partner; IHG Hotels & Resorts, Official Hotel Partner and Al Rais Travel, Official DMC Partner.

ATM 3 | eTurboNews | eTN

Experts speaking at ATM outline strategies to realize China’s full tourism potential for Middle East

Capitalizing on China’s projected tourism growth was a key topic at yesterday’s Market Insights Summit  at Arabian Travel Market (ATM). The summit, which took place on the Global Stage at the Middle East’s leading travel and tourism exhibition, explored the potential of the developing markets such as China. 

During the dedicated session, a panel of experts delved into effective strategies for attracting and engaging Chinese travelers. The panel included Sukhpreet Singh Ghataura, Director of Ecosystem Development at MEAI Huawei, Lu Pan, Marketing VP at Shanghai Dongfang Newspaper Co., Ltd, and Sienna Parulis Cook, Director of Marketing and Communications at Dragon Trail International.

Sharing the latest research from Huawei’s Petal Ads platform, Ghataura said: “Between Q1 2023 and Q1 2024 the number of outbound Chinese tourists visiting the Middle East increased by 54%, with the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia being the top destinations in the region for Chinese travelers. In 2023, China accounted for 10% of global travel, with a collective spending of approximately US $265 billion. The primary driver for China’s outbound tourists is the cultural experiences they can enjoy in foreign destinations.” He added: “In terms of when they travel, notable seasons are the May Day holiday, China National Day and the Spring Festival.”

According to Huawei’s research, 66% of people traveling to the Middle East are looking to engage in cultural experiences, and the majority of outbound Chinese tourists are motivated by factors such as luxury offerings and sporting attractions. The research also identified a significant spike in the senior middle-class segment who prefer quality travel and have access to a higher disposable income.

Parulis Cook commented: “In terms of the consumer research that Dragon Trail International has conducted, we can see major growth this year in terms of consumer confidence and intention to travel. In 2023, 30% of Chinese travelers said they would not leave China to travel, this figure is now down to 10%. Of the travelers that we surveyed this year, 5% had already traveled, and 18% had booked travel – of this, 94% had booked travel to more than one destination. This means that if they are visiting Europe, they will be traveling to multiple destinations within that region.”

Cook highlights that scenery is one of the main factors motivating tourists to leave China and that travelers are looking to experience nature and culture that is vastly different from their home country. Pan adds that in addition to traditional and digital marketing platforms, word of mouth is a powerful tool when it comes to promoting travel and tourism to Chinese tourists. She describes China’s outbound tourism recovery as an “upward spiral” rather than linear growth.

Pan concludes: “Tourism boards should prioritize storytelling by effectively communicating the stories about their businesses, destinations, and cultures and showing a genuine interest in their target audience to build trust.”


ATM’s summit tomorrow will focus on ‘Luxury’, featuring speakers from leading international hospitality brands, including Raffles, The Lana (Dorchester Collection), Jumeirah, and Kempinski. Topics on the agenda at the Luxury Summit tomorrow include Bringing the Experience Economy to Luxury: Attracting Customers with One-off Moments That Matter and Luxury Product Development: What Travel Can Learn from Retail.

Another highlight tomorrow will be the announcement of the ATM Best Stand Awards, which recognize the design creativity and business-friendly appeal of exhibiting companies across six categories – ‘Best Stand Design’, ‘Best Stand for Doing Business’, ‘Best Stand Feature’, ‘Best New Stand’, ‘Best Use of Technology’ and ‘Sustainable Stand Award’.

eTurboNews is a media partner for ATM.

About the author

Linda Hohnholz

Editor in chief for eTurboNews based in the eTN HQ.

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