ITIC summit ends return of live-in-person Arabian travel market

ITIC Middle-East travel summit

The Middle East Tourism Summit organised by the International Tourism and Investment Conference (ITIC) in partnership with Arabian Travel Market, 2021, held between 24 and 26 May, has rounded off the region’s largest travel and tourism show with participants calling for continued collaboration at government level to support the recovery of the tourism industry in the Middle East.

The summit which was held under the theme: ‘Invest-Rebuild-Restart the Tourism Industry in the Middle East’ and attended by high-level decision-makers, professionals, and investors, focused primarily on challenges, issues, opportunities, and more importantly on the way forward for the tourism industry in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also harped on green sustainable investment, underscoring a new vision for responsible tourism recovery.

While leading the discussion, the Chairman, ITIC, and former Secretary-General, UNWTO, Mr. Taleb Rifai, said “governments must come together. They must work together. There is no sense in any country working on its own anymore.”

On her part, the Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, Danielle Curtis, said “putting sustainability at the heart of the future development of the tourism industry in the Middle East will be crucial to meet the expectations of local and international visitors, who are now more socially aware and informed than ever before. The industry has undoubtedly made huge strides in this area, with a range of initiatives across the sector positively impacting the environment.”

On the final day of ATM was an insightful session entitled, ‘East Meets West: Lessons Learned Leading to Recovery and On-going Resilience’ with guest panelists from industry associations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

The overwhelming consensus was that it is extremely important that countries and destinations work together to share best practices and align protocols in order to get global travel restarted seamlessly and safely, a point reiterated by aviation experts earlier. According to the panelists, the most pressing issues making the current situation so challenging for the industry is the fact that it remains unpredictable and there is a lack of clarity which makes medium to long-term planning very difficult.

There was another popular session about the challenges to traditional hospitality brought about by social distancing and the increased reliance on technology – impersonal by nature. A panel consisting of hospitality leaders agreed that nothing would replace genuine hospitality rather guests would decide what level of human interaction they are comfortable with – balancing safety with personal attention while maximising the efficiency of technology without compromising on service excellence.

At the anticipated three-day ATM Virtual event for those unable to attend the physical event will have the opportunity to view sessions recorded from the in-person event, as well as participate in a range of webinars, live conference sessions, roundtables, speed networking events, destination briefings and make new connections in one-on-one meetings.

Similarly, arrival Dubai @ ATM will also take place during the virtual week and will feature a series of sessions covering current and future trends for operators of tours and other attractions.

In addition, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organisation, will deliver the latest business travel content, research, and education to drive the post-pandemic recovery and support growth in business travel.

Speaking on the gains of the summit, Curtis said, “This week has been a resounding success, we’ve welcomed exhibitors from 62 countries and travel professionals from over 100 countries during the four days of the event.

“Next week, ATM Virtual gives us the opportunity to interact with an even greater global audience. With travel restrictions still in place for many people, for those unable to attend the live and in-person event, the virtual element provides the perfect platform for travel professionals to connect, do business and hear from leading lights within the industry, from anywhere in the world.”