Flexibility & sustainability to drive long-term growth in ME’s regional travel & tourism: Experts

As the post-pandemic recovery of the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector continues apace, industry leaders took to the ATM Global Stage to explore the latest trends and global movements that are steering the sector forward. Flexibility, responsiveness, sustainability and innovation were all highlighted as catalysts for long-term success.

Moderated by Eleni Giokos, Anchor and Correspondent at CNN, the opening session’s panelists included Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing; Scott Livermore, Chief Economist at Oxford Economics; Jochem-Jam Sleiffer, President – Middle East, Africa and Turkey at Hilton; Bilal Kabbani, Industry Head – Travel and Tourism at Google; and Andrew Brown, Regional Director – Europe, Middle East and Oceania at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

Commenting on the ever-increasing importance of environmentally responsible travel and tourism, Kazim said, “A few years ago, we launched special awards to recognise the efforts that hotels in Dubai are making in advancing sustainability within the emirate’s tourism industry. We have now broadened this with the continued support of our valued stakeholders and partners to ensure that everyone operating in the travel and tourism space is working with sustainability at top of mind. We are also highlighting its importance to residents and visitors, as evident in the launch of the Dubai Can sustainability initiative.”

“With the post-pandemic era set to create a highly competitive landscape, our successful tourism recovery strategy is still evolving in keeping to the disruption taking place across global tourism. As we continue to embrace creativity and innovation to stay ahead of the curve, we will remain focused on creating alternative pathways to growth as we strive to achieve the goal of our visionary leadership to make Dubai the world’s most sought-after destination and the best place in the world to live and work in,” Kazim added.

Kazim’s fellow panelists cited examples such as Expo 2020 Dubai as proof of the emirate’s success in following through on its travel and tourism-related commitments, noting that destinations across the Middle East are working hard to mirror this success.

Panelists also noted that domestic travel had rebounded at a faster pace than international travel in the Middle East. Regional trips accounted for 55 per cent of demand in 2019, according to Livermore, and this figure grew to more than 80 per cent during the segment’s post-Covid peak. While Livermore predicted the proportion of regional trips accounted for by international travel would continue to recover in the future, he also pointed out that the importance of domestic travel was likely to persist.

In addition, speakers highlighted the role of mega-events, such as Expo 2020 Dubai and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, in ensuring tourism in the Middle East continues to recover more rapidly than in other regions. Panellists also noted that, while issues related to the supply chain and oil prices represent challenges for the sector, they remain cautiously optimistic due to high levels of pend-up demand in the wake of the pandemic.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME for Arabian Travel Market, said, “Speakers during our opening session offered a selection of fascinating insights into the future of the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector.

“Industry professionals are going to great lengths to meet customers’ evolving requirements in the wake of the global pandemic, and it was interesting to learn about the steps already taken to ensure the long-term success of travel and tourism in our region.

“We look forward to hearing much more from travel and tourism experts from around the world during the next four days of ATM 2022,” Curtis added.

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