Israel – Iran Peace Meeting in Dubai at Arabian Travel Market

Israel ATM
Israel at ATM in 2023

Tourism is a business of peace. This became very clear at the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market. Israel Tourism stayed away, and so did others frustrated about the shape the world is in. Reed Expo, the ATM organizer avoided discussions on peace through tourism, but the power of tourism as a resilient industry confirmed what Jamaica’s minister of Tourism Bartlett had been advocating at the United Nations recently.

Tourism arrivals by Israelis to Thailand have not decreased during the current conflict, according to Dov Kalman, the Chairman of Terranova Tourism Marketing Ltd. in Israel, who is the official representative for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in the Jewish State.

He recently returned to Israel attending the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, and told eTurboNews that he thought Israel canceling its stand was a wrong decision, sending the wrong message, and was short-sighted.

“Of course, Israel would have not signed major contracts at the event judging from the current situation, but showing face is important, and not so doing was sending the wrong message.”

However, a good number of Israeli tourism professionals did not follow what the Israel Ministry of Tourism indicated, they went to attend ATM in Dubai anyway, according to Dov.

Dov said the highlight for him attending ATM was meeting good friends from the other side of the border, including tour operator friends from Iran.

Iran and Israel agree: Tourism is not playing the game of being enemies

He explained: “Us in tourism do not play the game of being enemies. This is exactly what tourism should be all about – showing the world this is a business of peace.”

Maybe this is why Dov Kalman was presented with the Tourism Hero award during COVID-19 at the World Travel Market in London.

Imtiaz Muqbil, the publisher of Travel Impact Newswire in Thailand, explained his version of why Israel was not at the ATM and added he also canceled his trip for a reason, indirectly endorsing Dov’s assumption staying away from ATM was a big mistake for the Ministry of Tourism in Israel.

Imtiaz Muqbil, Travel Impact Newswire

Star Journalist Imtiaz Muqbil wrote in a lead article published in Travel Impact Newswire this week.

It does not take much to figure out why Israel was absent at this year’s ATM between 6-9 May 2024. Every day, millions of people worldwide are being exposed to images of the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza, dead or dying Palestinian babies, uprooted families, and devastation beyond belief. The Israeli government stands unbowed and unrelenting.

That this “1,000 eyes for one eye” policy will leave the whole world blind is a foregone conclusion. It is already unfolding — on the streets, in university campuses, in theatres and auditoriums, conferences, and sports arenas.

Not exactly good for the image of Israel, nor promoting tourism to Israel.

So, the Israelis stayed out of the ATM. And so did I.

I just could not see myself attending press conferences and panel discussions, hearing about health & wellness products to “soothe the body, mind and soul”, attending cocktails and dinners, while thousands of innocent civilians, especially women, and children, are being slaughtered and starved just a few hundred kilometers away.

As a journalist, I can choose to stay away. I have access to many other off-site sources of information, such as the ATM website, media releases, and social media platforms.

Businesspeople don’t have that choice. The Gulf region still remains one of the few parts of the world where “normalcy” prevails, people still have purchasing power and both inbound-outbound tourism is on a roll.

Commercial interests compulsorily take priority over any pangs of conscience. Understandable.

Not surprising, then, that the show was attended by more than 46,000 visitors from 160 countries – an 11% rise over last year, according to the organizers Reed Travel Exhibitions. Social media posts by many participants were full of images of the trade-floor buzz.

Just a few weeks ago last April, Israel and Iran came dangerously close to all-out war. Aviation took an immediate hit as air routes were hastily rejigged to avoid the danger zones.

Luckily for the ATM and indeed, the entire Gulf region, intense diplomatic efforts averted a wider conflagration. But it treated only the symptoms and not the cause.

Israel - Iran Peace Meeting in Dubai at Arabian Travel Market

The situation is worsening by the day.

The bloodbath in Gaza is far from over. The right-wing extremist fanatics pulling the levers of power in the Israeli government are quite clear about their goals. Palestine has to be wiped off the map. The depopulation of Gaza will be followed by the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. Then, the Israelis will go after Iran.

The conflict is already having a worldwide ripple effect. And grassroots movements are rising in support of the underdogs — this time, clearly the Palestinians.

American businesses are set to feel the pinch. So will the Gulf countries.

The Arab street, too, is getting increasingly restless and frustrated with its leaders. Once powerful countries are sitting helplessly as Arab voices are sidelined and Muslims are denigrated as terrorists. Arab leaders live in fear of falling victim to the next U.S. regime change operation, unless they play ball and keep buying billions of dollars worth of useless weaponry.

All this is in addition to the growing geopolitical risks agenda worldwide — the conflict in Ukraine, the possible return of Donald Trump as US President, China-U.S. tensions, and the rise of hate-spewing extremist, and nationalistic politicians such as in India. Plus the looming climate change disaster, the destabilizing impact of the AI wave, changing demographics, etc.

In travel & tourism forums, these threats are sidestepped with a shoulder shrug, as if nothing can be done about them or they are too sensitive and/or controversial to be tabled.

Nearly all the panel discussions at the ATM 2024 stayed within the usual comfort zones — technology, sustainability, luxury products, Chinese and Indian travelers, health & wellness, cruising, the promise of an open-door Saudi Arabia, etc., etc.

Economic Disruption and Future Proofing, avoiding Peace through Tourism

Only two sessions at ATM focused on “economic disruptions” and “Future-Proofing”.

Businesses, especially small & medium-sized enterprises, cannot survive in this insecure, living-in-denial operating environment.

It is intrinsically unfair for them to be forced to live from crisis to crisis, without some clarity about when and how it is all going to end. And it is grossly irresponsible of industry leaders to sweep it all under the carpet.

If the threat of a COVID-19 pandemic had to be dealt with forcefully and immediately to prevent it from getting worse, on what grounds can this current Big C, Conflict, be swept under the carpet?

The Israeli absence at the ATM 2024 went unreported in the local media. But there are monumental lessons to be learned, especially for the MICE sector.

As the Palestine conflict grinds on, Israel may find itself having to voluntarily pull out of other events, or be asked to stay out of others. Or other countries may simply pull out in protest against an Israeli presence.

The Israelis will respond with their usual “anti-Semitism” screeches. They and their supporters will threaten to retaliate. The downward spiral will continue.

An eye for an eye will leave the MICE sector blind.

Just about the entire chain of command in travel will be affected, via higher security hassles and costs, reimposition of visa curbs, and more.

That is not a possibility but, the way things are going, a certainty.

I knew I would not find any answers at the ATM Dubai.

On the contrary, I may even end up getting into trouble just for seeking answers. Which is why I pulled out. It was just not worth the time and expense.

As for those who had no choice except to be there for business reasons, make sure you operate in a cash-up-front mode, bills are paid, and have proper insurance coverage.


About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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