(MENAFN - Arab News) Companies from different countries that took part in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which ended in Dubai over the weekend, say they have high expectations from the Kingdom's market as they found that Saudis are frequent travelers and best investors from the region.
During the four-day event, Arab News spoke to some exhibitors and learned that many of them eye Saudi market aggressively.
Aishath Rimna, marketing and PR executive of Maldives Tourism Corporation, said about one million tourists are expected to visit the country by the year-end.
"Saudi Arabia is a promising market for us. We are receiving more tourists from the Kingdom than any other Middle East country," she added.
"During Q1 2012, Maldives recorded a total of 4,344 arrivals from the Middle East, marking an unparalleled growth of 77.8 percent compared to the same period last year. In particular it is important to note the exceptional growth from the Saudi market. The opening of the Middle East-based hotel chains in Maldives is a contributing factor for the positive growth. The Middle East has 1.7 percent of the total market share," she said.
"In general, majority of our tourists are from China. We have nice diving spots with water clear enough to see the passing fish as far as 50 meters away. Over a 1,000 species of fish and other underwater creatures inhabit the Maldivian waters. In addition, the island well known for Spa and Wellness is also a good place for honeymooners," she said, adding that the huge response at the ATM is encouraging.
Joanne Golong-Gomez, director of sales and marketing of the Ascott Ltd. in Philippines, said she had been attending the ATM for the last three years and the response was good.
"Most of our guests are from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We have tie-ups with travel agencies and tour operators in Saudi Arabia," she added.
Hrach Kalsahaklan, sales and marketing manager of Cyprus Tourism Organization at its Middle East and Arabian Gulf Office, said stability of Cyprus was driving its tourism.
"In 2011, our arrivals were among the best in the Middle East. Most of our travelers are from Lebanon and the UAE. We receive less tourists from Saudi Arabia, as we don't have direct flights from the Kingdom," he added.
Yasser Gharib, director of sales at Ahlan Travels in Kuala Lumpur, said majority of their clients were from Saudi Arabia. "I have been attending this event for the last three years. We get good response at the fair and most of our guests are from the Kingdom."
"We hope the number will go up as Tourism Malaysia is going to focus more on Islamic heritage sites during this Ramadan. In addition, we have tie-ups with tour operators in the Kingdom to attract travelers from the Kingdom," he added.
Wisoot Buachoom, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand at its Dubai and Middle East office, said their target is high and they are working on it.
"The Middle East market, which continues to grow, is very important for us. Due to our campaigns, we expect travel from the GCC to increase in 2012 compared to the 2011 visitor figure, estimating the increase to be a solid 10 percent."
"More than 70 exhibitors from Thailand are participating in the event. They offer different attractions, which varies from Night Jungle Safari to medical tourism. So the trade inquiries are high this time," he added.
"Our country is ranked among the top 10 for key attributes such as food, beaches, nightlife, shopping and accommodation. For the Middle East, niche tourism products for health and wellness, wedding and honeymoon, green tourism and golf will all be highlighted during this year," he said.
Hamad Abdullah Al-Mulla, CEO, Katara Hospitality, said the company currently had 24 hotels operational or under development in eight international destinations.
"We are looking to increase that to 30 properties by 2016 and double that figure by 2030 to 60 hotels and resorts around the world." Katara Hospitality has a number of openings on the horizon including two new Qatar-based projects - an iconic development in the Marina District of the new Lusail city and the Merwebhotel City Center Doha in 2013.
Philippe Seguin, vice president sales, distribution & marketing, Accor Middle East, said 22 new hotels representing 5,598 rooms are set to open in key destinations, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt within the next three years.
Lev Kuznetsov, deputy director of City Marketing Agency that belongs to St. Petersburg Tourism, noted that the Middle East market is promising and important for them.
"We are here to give a clear idea about St. Petersburg and its endless possibilities. Many from this region are not very much aware about its beauty," he added. "Around 5.5 million people have visited St. Petersburg in 2011. This figure was only 3.8 million in 2006. However, arrivals from the Middle East are under 5 percent of the total number," he said.
Tanzanian National Parks acting Director Ezekiel Dembe said he expected more tourists and guests from the region in future. "Businessmen from the Middle East, especially from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have started to invest in our country. We have a huge unexplored area, which is suitable for developing tourism related activities," Dembe said. In addition to the Middle East, inquiries from China and India are also good. "We have untouched forests and beaches. We will be focusing more on Southern Tanzania," he added.
Ibrahim Al-Dubaiikhi, director of Riyadh-based Abbad Travels, said he attended the ATM for the fourth time and utilized the opportunity to meet travel professionals from other regions. This event is very helpful for travel agents in the Kingdom as we can meet exhibitors from different areas with different products," he added.
Waleed Al-Turairi, a travel professional and owner of East Holidays in Riyadh said the event helped him to find right people for different destinations.
The event was held with the support of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai.
The show has grown to become the largest showcase of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world.