Arabian Travel Market Dubai 2023: The road to sustainability and technology in travel and hospitality

The 30th edition of Arabian Travel Market featured 2,100 exhibitors from 150 countries; Saudi Arabia shines in this year's ATM



May 18, 2023 - 3 min read

Arabian Travel Market Dubai 2023: The road to sustainability and technology in travel and hospitality
Arabian Travel Market

The Arabian Travel Market, popularly known as ATM, is one of the most significant annual travel and tourism events in the Gulf. Key industry players within travel and tourism look forward to this annual event as it provides a platform for business opportunities, networking, and learning.

ATM 2023 aimed to redefine traveling as it amplifies its integration with sustainability and technology. With this year’s theme, Working Towards Net Zero, it is a pivotal time for the industry to explore innovative sustainable travel trends and define strategies for growth within the business sector. The much-anticipated annual event held at the Dubai World Trade Centre was attended by 40,000 people from various professions from the global hospitality industry as well as other sectors, and about 2,100 exhibitors and representatives participated from over 150 countries.

“Climate change is real,” says Marc Assar, TableCheck UAE Country Manager. “It is vital for every key player within this industry to be proactive on this as the region transitions to become a sustainable destination. One of the key priorities of TableCheck for the hotel and restaurant industry is to retain that strong connection with diners as they transition to sustainability," he added.

Minor Hotels, a TableCheck client, was also in attendance at the four-day event as it looks to expand its footprint in the Middle East and other geographies. Minor Hotels currently has over 530 hotels spread out across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

"As a company, Minor Hotels is very much focused on the dynamic behavior of the diners based on their choice, [while] streamlining all touch points to convert lookers to diners in a short time span. This is where TableCheck plays a major role in creating visibility of the offerings we have in all touch points [so that] diners could search for the best dining options with full automation and a user-friendly booking process. Nothing could be better than having solutions customized for the brand and their requirements to maximize real-time conversions," says Shanaka Perera, Minor Hotels' Regional Director of eCommerce and Distribution for Middle East and Africa.

Anantara Palm Dubai, one of the hotels under the Anantara hotel brand under the portfolio of Minor Hotels

Net Zero 2050

The event also sheds light on Dubai's commitment to becoming the world's leading destination for responsible tourism while upholding initiatives. This is part and parcel of its blueprint for D33 (Dubai Economic Agenda), which outlines its goal to double the size of the city's economy by the next decade. This may also significantly impact the growth of the restaurant sector which now boasts 13,000 establishments.

The Sustainability and Technology hubs are among the biggest highlights of the four-day event. As the world accelerates its initiatives in reaching its sustainability goals towards ‘Net Zero’ in 2050, below are a few key insights and trends that we have gathered from the event:

1. The rapid growth trend of sustainable traveling

Sustainability is indeed reshaping the travel and hospitality industry. As the demand for a sustainable lifestyle is increasing, consumers are finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint when traveling. They are expecting companies to integrate sustainable practices in different aspects of their experience during their trip – from transportation to accommodation down to the food they will consume.

In one of the panel discussions by key aviation industry leaders, the majority of them agreed that the usage of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) can help meet the industry’s long-term sustainability goals. This rising fuel technology reduces emissions in aviation by 80%. Admittedly, the cost is the top challenge for aviation operators to embrace this next-generation fuel; however, a growing number of them have started to invest in this technology.

2. The rise of eco-friendly hotels

As the aviation industry strives to improve the sustainable performance of their aircraft, hotels and resorts are also working diligently to minimize their environmental impacts at the ground level. Major hotel chains have eliminated single-use plastics, incorporated renewable and environment-friendly materials, and integrated energy-efficient lighting and utilities. These hotels have also partnered with tour operators to design non-negligible and sustainable attractions and activities. Restaurants are also encouraged to pursue maximizing fresh produce within the local market to minimize their carbon footprint.

3. Integration of AI in the travel industry and its contribution to greener reforms

The event gave emphasis on the importance of technology as an enabler of sustainable travel. Efficient energy usage and reduced waste are among the many things that artificial intelligence (AI) can contribute to both hoteliers and airline operators toward greener reforms. AI-powered systems can adjust lighting and temperature based on weather and occupancy, which can lead to more energy efficiency and savings. Meanwhile, robust data and machine-learning algorithms provide more accurate forecasting of food consumption and waste that optimizes inventory management.

While this contributes a lot more to the operational side of the business, key opinion leaders during the event fervently also put into emphasis that human intervention remains crucial to achieving genuine value and guest satisfaction.

4. Tourism: Saudi Arabia's driving force for growth

Saudi Arabia’s aggressive efforts in amplifying its tourism presence in the Gulf have clearly dominated the recent ATM event. The country’s stand kicked off its largest and most impressive presence at an international trade event to date with 67 partners and over 500 bookable experiences. The spacious stand of Saudi Arabia has brought to life the country’s diversity and heritage in a range of interactive and immersive experiences such as virtual reality headsets, live calligraphy, and its various traditional dances.

In a forum that was held during the event, Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin shared that the country’s visitor target has reached beyond its expectation, and will be increasing its target to 100M as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 program.

Meanwhile, TableCheck is aiming to expand its presence in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia is one of the countries it is eyeing to increase its market reach.

Saudi Arabia's market is huge, and the Saudi government is constantly implementing new rules and opening new opportunities to attract foreign investors. No doubt, we should spread our name in the region and introduce TableCheck to Saudi Arabia and newly developed countries," Asssar says in his interview last year.

The Gulf is definitely making significant strides in its pursuit of economic diversification. With its year-on-year increase of 29% in attendees compared to 2022, this year’s Arabian Travel Market is a clear demonstration that the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector is booming. With the rapid growth trend of sustainable traveling, combined with the integration of AI, there is so much about the industry to look forward to as we gather again on next year's Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

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