UAE - More than 23,000 visitors attended the 29th edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2022, as industry leaders gathered at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) to share insights into the future of international travel and tourism.

“In addition to doubling our visitor numbers year-on-year, ATM 2022 hosted 1,500 exhibitors and attendees from 150 countries,” commented Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME for Arabian Travel Market.

“These figures are especially impressive given that lockdowns are still taking place in China and other destinations. What’s more, the development of the travel and tourism sector throughout the Middle East region shows no signs of abating, with GCC hotel construction contract awards set to rise by 16 percent this year alone.”

The value of UAE and Saudi Arabian projects accounted for 90 percent of all regional hospitality contracts awarded in 2021, according to research from BNC Network. With analysis from Colliers International forecasting that $4.5 billion worth of hotel construction contracts will be awarded in the GCC during 2022, industry experts took to the ATM Global Stage for a panel discussion about the future of the region’s hospitality industry.

Moderated by Paul Clifford, Group Editor – Hospitality at ITP Media Group, the panel discussion featured insights from Christopher Lund, Director – Head of Hotels MENA at Colliers International; Mark Kirby, Head of Hospitality at Emaar Hospitality Group; Tim Cordon, Area Senior Vice President – Middle East and Africa at Radisson Hotel Group; and Judit Toth, Founder and CEO of Vivere Hospitality.

Commenting on the need to attract and retain talent within the Middle East’s hospitality sector, Cordon said: “The organisations that get this right are going to benefit because, of course, we know how expensive it is to bring new people into our business and it’s even more expensive if you lose them. I don’t think you can talk about the future of hospitality without talking about the future of talent.”

Toth pointed out that it was equally important to educate industry professionals on the priorities and mindset of younger employees and guests alike. “The younger generation think completely differently. They live in a world of crypto and NFTs. How are they going to be able to bring their ideas and talents into the [hotel] business? And remember, on the other side, your new and future customers are also coming from the same background, with the same motivations and understanding. So, it’s a matter of bringing in new talent that shares common ground with new customers.”

Speaking on the continued importance of nationalisation efforts, Emaar Hospitality Group’s Kirby said: “Emiratisation coexists with how we develop our leadership teams to operate hotels. We focus on leadership at this level to come from within, [drawing on] internal talent. The fact that we’re growing and opening new hotels helps us, because it provides opportunities for our existing team members to move up.”

As part of the conference agenda for the fourth and final day of ATM 2022, representatives from Atlas, Wego Middle East and Alibaba Cloud MEA took to the ATM Travel Tech Stage to explore how data is changing airline retailing. Panellists shared insights into how to build data-led organisations, and why companies that successfully harness travel data today will be most likely to succeed in the longer term.

The morning sessions included a session hosted by WTM Responsible Tourism, on the ATM Global Stage, focusing on how the latest innovations can be used to promote responsible technology for travel and tourism. Concluding this year’s edition of ATM, afternoon sessions included a discussion about the return and rise of city tourism.

The final day of the live event also included the announcement of ATM 2022’s ‘Best Stand Design’ and ‘People’s Choice Award’, which were presented to Saudia for its futuristic and striking concept. Other stands awarded for their creativity included the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Jumeirah International, Ishraq International and TBS/Vbooking.

“ATM 2022 has provided a timely opportunity for the global travel and tourism sector to gather in Dubai and explore the future of our industry. Innovation, sustainability, technology and talent acquisition and retention will be crucial to its long-term success,” concluded Curtis.

Meanwhile, video-sharing platform ‘Welcome to the World’ secured up to $500,000 of investment after winning the inaugural ATM Draper-Aladdin Startup Competition on the ATM Travel Tech Stage.

Following the success of the hybrid approach adopted for last year’s edition, the live ATM 2022 will be followed by ATM Virtual, which will take place on May 17 and 18. 

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