Monday, September 27, 2021

Welcome 2021

On the brink of a new dawn
December 2020 1864

By Danielle Curtis

As another new year begins, people around the world will be hoping for a successful roll-out of the various Covid-19 vaccines and none more so than the global travel and tourism community.

Simply put, 2020 was one of the most challenging years on record for our industry and it is with an air of optimism that we look forward to 2021 with a positive outlook that we can address whatever issues the ‘new normal’ presents to us, in terms of technology, the environment and of course, the economy.

Therefore, with Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2021 taking place live this year at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from May 16 to 19, it is sure to be a pivotal time for our industry, (hundreds of millions of people around the world will have already received the vaccine) so, now we feel that our theme a ‘new dawn for travel and tourism’, will become even more relevant, the closer we get to the event. 

Supporting our theme, a recent Colliers report - MENA Hotel Forecasts, estimated that 2021 would be a year of recovery, with major destinations such as Dubai and Cairo leading the way with estimated full year 2021 occupancy levels of 68 per cent and 65 per cent respectively. Overall, average year-on-year growth of the 20 destinations researched was 47 per cent. So, a solid base to work from.  

Equally encouraging were the results of a worldwide survey conducted by YouGov in November, which asked recipients if they were planning to make an international trip within the next 12 months – UAE came top with 48 per cent of those polled confirming their intent to travel, with Saudi Arabia coming a close second with 46 per cent of respondents confirming their intent to travel abroad in 2021.

The health of the travel and tourism industry is absolutely key to the region. Prior to the pandemic, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the Middle East’s GDP was predicted by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), to reach $133.6 billion by 2028. Of course, we’ve hit a speed bump in terms of that growth trajectory, but it still underlines the role tourism plays in regional economies.

ATM 2021 will also play an integral role in Arabian Travel Week and for the first time, a new hybrid format will be in place. This means an additional virtual ATM will be organised to run the following week, which will complement the live event by accommodating visitors who may be unable to travel to Dubai. The inaugural ATM Virtual 2020, attracted 12,000 online attendees from 140 countries, over three days.

Notable features of Arabian Travel Week will include International Luxury Travel Market Arabia (ILTM Arabia) and Travel Forward, the travel technology vertical. ATM will also be partnering with Arival, with content covering future trends for tour operators and destination managers.

Other highlights will include Buyers Forums dedicated to key source markets including Saudi Arabia, India and China plus a virtual digital influencers’ speed networking session, a hotel summit and a responsible tourism programme.

We are now in our 28th year and working in collaboration with Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and the DWTC which is aiming to provide a touchless and seamless experience.

The team at DWTC has already organised safe and successful events such as GITEX, having implemented a range of measures including an enhanced cleaning regime, improved air circulation, multiple hand sanitiser stations and temperature checks.

So, with the stage set for 2021 and having learned valuable lessons during 2020, I am confident that the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East is on the cusp of a sustainable recovery.

- The writer is Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market

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