Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the leading international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals was held from May 1 – 4 at Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC) and attracted over 40,000 people – including 30,000 visitors.
More than 2,100 exhibitors and representatives from over 150 countries took part in the landmark edition of the event at DWTC, and Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) was one of the main exhibitors.
Daisuke Kobayashi, Executive Director of Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Dubai Office told Arab News Japan that their participation at ATM 2023 included 9 co-exhibitors, mainly tour operators, the Japan stand.
“With the recent relaxation of visa application procedures for short-term stay for the residents of UAE and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the introduction of the visa waiver program for Qatari nationals by the passport pre-registration, and the resumption of more direct flights from the Middle East to Japan, etc., the tourism infrastructure has been continuing to improve, the COVID-19 related border controls were completely lifted as of April 29,” he said.
About the challenges that they have faced for their participation at ATM 2023, Kobayashi said: “It has been 4 years since we had co-exhibitors at our stand at the ATM, and the main purpose was not only to disseminate general tourism information, but also to support business match-makings between local travel agencies and Japanese co-exhibitors. We were pleased that many business meetings were held at the ATM, and that some of them lead to rather specific proposals.”
“The eminent difference in this year’s ATM was the large number of specific inquiries by the agents about hotels and touristic attractions for their customers who are planning to visit Japan. In the past participation at the ATM, there were more travel agents requesting rather general inquiries; for example, if there are any places to visit other than Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, or what we can do in Japan in general. The objectives of the business meetings at the ATM for us have evolved from general inquiries to more specific consultation, and I felt strongly that Japan is beginning to be considered as a good candidate for leisure travel destination.”
“The biggest gain for us is that we were able to provide the platform where the travel agents and the Japanese counter-parts to build new business relationships,” he added.
About the feedback of the visitors who came to JNTO booth at ATM 2023, Kobayashi said: “We have received many inquiries about online visa applications, and also about the seasons. Japan is famous for cherry blossoms, but agents were also keen to learn about the beauty of the various seasons, such as autumn foliage and winter skiing.”
“Many agents told us that it was a good opportunity to form a new network connection with the Japanese co-exhibitors,” he added.
Kayoko Sotowa from Ohara School of Ikebana UAE Chapter said the school’s participation showcased an array of flower arrangements including purple irises and pink peonies, which represent the flowers of May, against a background of pictures of cherry blossoms in full bloom.
“We welcomed guests in Japanese attire, so people wanted to take photos with us and our flower arrangements. We were also asked by many people about getting a good E-Visa for Japan and for travel advice, and we found out that many people are looking forward to travelling to Japan,” she added.
Ayumi Kimba, the director of J-Links Co.,Ltd. said: “At ATM this year, we received considerably more enquiries than when we first exhibited in 2016. About 90% of our customers are from the Middle East, and we feel that our arrangements based on their needs have been well received.”
“On the other hand, they often make requests that we have never had before, and we want to be flexible for that,” she added.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “My colleagues and I are thrilled that so many tourism professionals were able to join us in Dubai to celebrate the 30th edition of the show and shine a spotlight on our sector’s ongoing journey to net zero. The fact that we witnessed record attendance at ATM 2023 is extremely encouraging and a strong indication that the Middle East’s travel industry is once again in excellent shape.”
To mark three decades of ATM, there were a number of special events on the agenda during the four-day exhibition. Hilton won the inaugural Sustainable Stand Award. Selected by an independent panel of judges, the hospitality brand was chosen for its decision to use a local supplier in the creation of its stand as well as its commitment to repurposing materials as much as possible over the coming three years. Hilton also used a carbon calculator to measure the carbon footprint associated with its involvement in the show and has taken steps to mitigate this output.