Last week saw the conclusion of the Arabian Travel Market, the Middle East’s largest travel and tourism trade fair, modeled along the lines of ITB Berlin. This year’s show surpassed all expectations with an extraordinary 12,305 visitors and 22,655 total industry attendance on the first three days of the show that were reserved for business. Preliminary statistics showed a record 10.4 percent rise in overseas visitors.
The United States, however, was, for all practical purposes AWOL represented solely and rather absurdly by the Department of Homeland Security. They were there to “demonstrate its mandatory fingerprinting of Arab and other foreign visitors” – hardly likely to stimulate tourism to the US. The USA Today report notes rightly that “New York City’s absence at the convention was especially perplexing, as Emirates airlines flies three daily direct flights to New York, and Etihad airlines operates another daily direct New York flight from the Emirates capital Abu Dhabi”.
That the Middle East today is wealthy beyond fables is well known. It is estimated that approximately $1.5 trillion dollars went from the West including the United States to the Middle East in what has been billed as the largest transfer of wealth in human history occuring in the short span of five years. And the Arabs are looking to spend their new found wealth both in terms of investments and tourism. Operators in the US can do what government agencies and tourism bureaus have failed to – which is to show up at the 2008 show by signing up.