By Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market (ATM) and World Travel Market (WTM)
He has played a pivotal role in the development of ATM since 2008, when he was Exhibition Director. Following the 2009 showcase, he took on the responsibility for the WTM 2009 edition, before being appointed Senior Exhibition Director for both events in 2014.
Returning to Dubai in May 2015 for my first ATM in five years felt like more of a homecoming. No other industry compares with hospitality, it’s about people, built on standards and values of service excellence, that are still as valid today as they have ever been. But much has changed especially since 2010 which I’m proud to say ATM has been a barometer for many of them.
It is hard to imagine but back in 2009 some growth trends we now take for granted were only just developing in the region, such as low cost airlines, (flydubai only launched in 2008) virtual travel agents, mobile travel apps and the outbound Chinese tourism market. However although Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways plus of course the prominence and global status of Dubai International Airport seemed to be destined for success, they have all experienced phenomenal growth over the last five years.
So with so many fundamental industry changes, how has ATM changed since 2009? Well to say it meant business, would be an understatement. After receiving feedback from a post show exhibitors’ survey in 2010, ATM decided to replace the consumer day with an additional business day. Exhibitors wanted to spend more time with their new, existing and potential trade partners.
Previously ATM had showcased a large presence from Tourism Development Companies, but it is has now returned more to its original leisure tourism roots. This was the result to a post-show satisfaction survey from exhibitors and visitors, following this the show has improved significantly and ATM has grown exponentially. From 2,200 exhibiting companies in 2010, to the 2015 edition which recorded over 26,000 visitors, 2,873 exhibiting companies and business deals worth more than US$2.5 billion, a record for ATM. The 2016 event will stretch to 11 halls.
But these statistics only tell half of the tale, our successful growth since the 2009 show has mirrored that of the region, the UAE and perhaps more closely, Dubai’s tourism surge. Its sheer resilience is one aspect, but what has been remarkable is its unwavering ambition to continuously drive its tourism industry and develop its transport infrastructure, as we head towards 2020 and beyond.
Even set against such a positive backdrop, as the market has matured over the last five years, so have ATM’s exhibitors, who are using a mix of experience and smart technology to gauge views, likes, customer opinion, footfall and even business proposal success ratios. To provide quantifiable return on investment (ROI) it is vital that ATM delivers high level buyers and visitors that are in senior positions able to make business decisions. Our online meeting tools which fast track the meeting process have helped a great deal in this respect, maximising onsite meeting time.
That also has to be balanced with those important networking opportunities at business sessions or seminars as well as during social occasions. After all we are in the hospitality business!
Another area of marketing that we have seen intense demand for are the ATM sponsorship opportunities. The number of exhibiting companies has increased by 30% since 2010, meaning competition is exceptionally fierce and companies now appreciate it is essential to raise brand awareness.
Similarly the media centre has also grown substantially - in 2010 we welcomed 600 members of the media, local, regional and international. Just five years later we registered 874 journalists, an increase of over 45%. It has also been noticeable, that companies attending ATM are now much more media savvy than they used to be. The PR and marketing communications sector has grown and grown-up very quickly in the region, exhibitors are now only too aware of the value of delivering clear and concise messages to their target audiences and the positive editorial that they can realise.
I’m also reliably informed that exhibitors will now vie for the key onsite press conference slots, as eagerly as they do when contesting prime exhibition space! Perhaps there’s another trend in the making…