ATM visitors to expect hot debate

Guest Writer

This year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is shaping up to be a hotbed of debate with event organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) securing a line-up of impressive speakers and panellists.
The format of this year’s show education programme is divided into two components – debates and seminars – with the former kicking off with a controversial session entitled ‘Hotels Get Real’, where panellists will dish out some tough advice to hoteliers regarding their pricing strategies.
The session addresses the fact that hoteliers in the Middle East, particularly Dubai, are still pricing themselves out of the market. Both tour operators worldwide and DMCs based in the Gulf say hoteliers are still not being flexible enough with their pricing strategies plus the cost of F&B is still extortionate. As a result, places like Dubai are losing out to neighbours such as RAK, or alternative medium-haul destinations that pose better value for money.
This debate will also address the need for the region’s hotels to offer more all-inclusive packages.
On the same day, a debate entitled ‘The Growth of Value Travel in the Middle East’ explores the rise of budget airlines and limited-service hotels across the region, with an impressive panel of speakers ready to air their views including flydubai’s Ghaith Al Ghaith and Accor’s Christophe Landais.
On day two, topics include sports tourism opportunities, the changing face of incentive travel and Al Ghaith will return to the event to sit on the airline debate panel alongside Wataniya’s George Cooper, Air Arabia’s Adel Ali and Boeing’s Randy Tinseth. Moderator, JLS Consultancy’s John Strickland will ask them about the impact of the financial crisis and what pressure they are feeling to bow to environmentalist demands.
Following the airline debate is the cruise debate discussing the successes to date of the UAE’s cruise industry and what opportunities and challenges lie ahead to build on this success. Royal Caribbean’s Helen Beck will discuss this issue with HRH Sheikh Faisal and Ian Calvert, who are developing a new themed cruise pier in RAK and Hamad Bin Mejren from Dubai Cruise Terminal.
The fun doesn’t end there, with debate topics on day three ranging from HR issues and Emiratisation policies to the opportunity to exploit demand for experiential travel.
The annual ‘Agent Debate’ (Day 3 of ATM is Travel Agents’ Day) will feature well-known faces Sundar Vasudaven (TRS Consulting); Leo Fewtrell (DTTAG); Mark Reed (Arabian Pacific Travel); Sandra Owen (Al Arabi Travel); Roland Bunge (Kanoo Travel); and Benjo Vanlaarhoven (Alshamel/CWT). Moderated by Lizzie Cernik (TDME and TDUK), the session will address a range of issues from training programmes to the development and evolution of the industry. Travel agents are advised to attend this debate to get their voices heard on topics that are highly relevant to them.
Seminar wise, the ATM programme is wide-ranging, with strong themes emerging this year including e-marketing and PR tactics.
Agents should not miss the ‘Best Practice for Travel Agents’ seminar where Mystery Shopping experts will give some hints and tips on customer service strategies.
ATM takes place at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) from 4-7 May. Visit


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