Saudi Arabia is leading the GCC’s tourism development activities with a pipeline of 100,071 hotel rooms, according to data released by STR.
Dubai is the region’s second most active market with 27,095 rooms under contract, followed by Qatar (17,145), Oman (10,292), Bahrain (3,452) and Kuwait (1,369). In total, there are 159,424 pipeline rooms under contract in the Gulf at present.
Industry experts will gather in the UAE to discuss sustainable decision-making and financing during the International Tourism & Investment Conference (ITIC) Middle East Tourism Investment Session at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023, which will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from Monday 1 to Thursday 4 May.
Related opportunities and challenges will be placed under the microscope throughout ATM 2023, thanks to a range of panel discussions and events related to industry financing. In addition to the ITIC panels, this year’s show will feature sessions highlighting industry-critical issues such as travel tech investment, the contemporary geopolitical landscape, urban regeneration, future markets, space tourism and more.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “With nearly 160,000 hotel rooms under development across the GCC, this region is undoubtedly a global hotspot for industry investment right now. Thanks to the participation of ITIC and a host of other finance-related sessions, ATM 2023 represents the ideal forum for travel, tourism and hospitality professionals from around the world to explore the latest investment opportunities and novel financing models with some of the biggest names in our sector.”
Taking place on day three of ATM 2023, the ‘ITIC Tourism Investment Session: Making Sustainable Decisions’ will feature insights from an array of industry experts. The sessions will begin with a tourism economic outlook for 2023 from Gerald Lawless, Director of ITIC Ltd, Invest Tourism Ltd and Ambassador for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
ITIC’s opening session will be followed by a panel discussion on the increasing correlation between sustainability and investments in travel and tourism projects, moderated by Sameer Hashmi, Middle East Business Correspondent at BBC News. Speakers will include HE Ahmed Issa, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities; Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism; Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority; and Maher Abou Nasr, Vice President, Operations – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at IHG Hotels & Resorts.
ATM 2023’s ITIC sessions will conclude with an interview between Elizabeth Maclean, Co-Managing Director of Herdwick Communications, and Dr Lubna Bader Salim Al Mazroei, Manager – Economic Diversification Investments at Oman Investment Authority, during which the two will discuss growing opportunities for women across the Middle East’s tourism industry.
The 30th edition of the show will also feature ‘Plug and Play: Sustainable Tech – Startups Pitch Battle’, which will see seven entrepreneurs pitch their innovative solutions in front of a panel of independent industry experts at ATM 2023’s brand-new Sustainability Hub. This year’s judges will include Natalie Seatter, Chief Product Officer at OAG; Jalil Mekouar, Founder and CEO of inHovate Solutions; Kristi Choi, Early Stage Tech Investor at Plug and Play; Winnie Chiu, President of Dorsett Hospitality International; and Essam AlZahrani, Tourism Startup Studio Programme Manager at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism. The winning startup will receive a range of industry support, including access to Plug and Play’s Startup Accelerator cohort and exhibition space at ATM 2024.
Other investment-related highlights at ATM 2023 will include sessions on financing sustainable travel, backing green technologies, strengthening the supply chain, future-proofing the travel sector against geopolitical turmoil, the power of urban regeneration, future markets and space tourism. These panels will be attended by a variety of high-profile speakers, such as Haitham Mattar, Managing Director – IMEA at IHG Hotels & Resorts; Guy Hutchinson, President and CEO of Rotana Hotel Group; Johan Eidhagen, Managing Director of Wizz Air; Robert Willock, Director MENA & Regional General Manager at The Economist Intelligence Corporate Network; Saleh Al Geziry, Director-General for Tourism at the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism; Christian Delom, Secretary General of A World For Travel; HE Ghada Shalaby, Egypt’s Vice Minister of Tourism and Antiquities; and Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism.
The 30th edition of ATM will explore the future of sustainable travel in line with its theme, ‘Working Towards Net Zero’. Having officially initiated its journey to net zero, the conference programme will explore how innovative sustainable travel trends are likely to evolve, allowing delegates to identify growth strategies within key vertical sectors, while providing a platform for regional experts to explore a sustainable future ahead of COP28, which will take place in November 2023 at Expo City Dubai.
The conference will also feature a sustainability category at its annual exhibitor awards for the first time. Exhibiting organisations will be recognised based on the extent to which they have considered the environmental impact of their stands, as well as their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
ATM 2023 is held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner.