- Özgür Töre
Arabian Travel Market (ATM), recently hosted the first digital ATM Advisory Board meeting with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and hospitality industry dominating the discussion.
The Board will continue to provide guidance on industry themes, challenges, growth opportunities and future strategies in the Middle East travel and tourism sector, however, this will now be set against a backdrop of COVID-19 and how the industry can adapt to the ‘new norm’.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “The Advisory Board is a cross section of industry leaders who provide an insight based on firsthand experience of the trends impacting the tourism industry. Their knowledge ensures ATM continues to act as a voice for the industry by providing support and direction during these difficult times.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the travel and tourism industry, like many others, to a halt, with very little indication of when the recovery will begin. It is therefore imperative we continue to listen and understand where we are as an industry, what the future could potentially look like and what we can do to work together to aid the recovery when it comes. ATM continues to play a crucial role in supporting the industry to achieve this.”
The meeting addressed the impact COVID-19 will have on the international trade show arena through discussions focused on the key learnings from businesses during the pandemic and the resulting changes to the industry. It also provided an insight into the ‘new normal’ for the tourism industry, and the approach to dealing with new social distancing measures, reliance on domestic tourism and the impact of airline restrictions.
Three phases of recovery were identified during the discussion. Phase one will focus on domestic travel and the local market, the second phase will be regional travel, and finally the international market when borders begin to open again.
It was also agreed social distancing, health, hygiene, and safety will be prioritised over offerings, for those who want to travel. To that effect, hotels will be subject to full sanitisation and the implementation of complete social distancing in restaurants and at all public facilities.
It is anticipated customers will also demand more information on the way hotels or restaurants support and re-educate staff on, amongst others, the way tables are serviced or the implementation of new house-keeping procedures. This is underscoring a need for an overhaul of the entire marketing, product development and service offerings to change, to give confidence to the consumer.
Recovery was discussed with the overarching consensus indicating this will depend on how the situation evolves, with emphasis placed on listening, market research and insights while maintaining an element of flexibility so the industry can adapt as the situation develops.
To support the industry, the organisers of ATM have announced the launch of ATM Virtual, a three-day event delivering positive business and networking opportunities to the region’s vast travel and tourism community. Taking place from 1-3 June 2020, the event will feature comprehensive webinars, live conference sessions, roundtables, speed networking events, one-to-one meetings, as well as facilitating new connections and offering a wide range of online business opportunities.
Board attendees included:
Al Mohannad Sharafuddin, Founder and Chairman, Arabian Falcon FZ LLC
Chris Newman, Chief Operating Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group
Gregory Fuller, Director, Brand Activation, Brand & Event Marketing Operations, Dubai Tourism
Haitham Mattar, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia
Jeff Strachan, Director, Dubai College of Tourism
John D. Davis, Chief Executive Officer – MENA, Colliers International
John Northen, Executive Director – Hotels Division, NEOM
Mark Willis, Chief Executive Officer – Middle East & Africa, Accor Hotels
Mohamed Awadalla, Chief Executive Officer, TIME Hotels
Mona Faraj, Founder & Managing Director, Insight-Out Consultancy
Mellissa R Pitt- Chalmers, Vice President Global Sales, Middle East & Africa, Marriott International, Inc
Pierric Duthoit, Sector Lead Branding – Middle East & North Africa, Google
Raki Phillips, Chief Executive Officer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority