For the first time in three years, Chinese exhibitors and travel industry professionals are returning to Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023, which will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from May 1 to 4 for its 30th edition.

On January 8, 2023, China lifted its covid-related travel restrictions, permitting Chinese tourists to travel abroad without being quarantined upon their return. According to data from Chinese travel website, bookings for international travel during Chinese New Year increased by 540% compared to the same period in 2022.

Steve Saxon, a Shenzhen-based partner at McKinsey, predicted in a CNN report that the Chinese outbound market would recover to approximately six million per month by the summer of 2023, driven in part by pent-up demand from young, affluent Chinese.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director for the Middle East at Arabian Travel Market, stated, “China became the world’s top source market in 2019, with 155 million tourists spending more than $250 billion overseas. However, its isolation from the global market over the past three years has set the industry back by an estimated $840 billion, equivalent, to 16% of the $1.7 trillion spent annually on global tourism, according to UNWTO.”

In 2019, Dubai received nearly one million Chinese visitors, an increase of over 15% compared to 2018. And while the 154,000 Chinese visitors Dubai received during the first eleven months of 2022 was down 83% compared to the same period prior to 2020, it was up 115% year-over-year, which bodes well not only for Dubai, but also for the tourism industry in the Middle East as a whole.

Popular destinations such as Dubai, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula, Egypt, and Jordan, which have consistently marketed to Chinese outbound business-to-consumer and business-to-business, should be well positioned to benefit from the anticipated rebound of Chinese tourist numbers.

“We have noticed a considerable amount of enquiries recently from travel professionals in China. Although we would not expect the same volume of Chinese exhibitors and visitors we received in 2019, we are confident of healthy participation numbers this year,” Curtis added.

The world comes together in the Middle East for the industry’s renowned travel and tourism event. 

Given the short notice, ATM 2023 has already confirmed the participation of key Chinese exhibitors, including FLIGHTROUTES24 Travel, Shenzhen GoodLuck Trip International, and Travel World China, with many more bookings anticipated prior to the event.

In collaboration with Dragon Trail International, ATM will also host a conference session titled “China is back on the map: Macro and micro impacts” on its Global Stage.

An expert panel of speakers, including Sienna Parulis-Cook, Director, Marketing and Communications for Dragon Trail International, Peggy Li, CEO & Chief Trouble shooter at sps:affinity, and Winnie Chiu, President, Dorsett Hospitality International, will discuss the most recent trends driving the recovery of Chinese tourism in the Middle East.

Business travel will be essential to the revival of tourism. According to a recent survey conducted by the Shanghai Institute of International Studies and PwC China, over seventy-five percent of Chinese businesses plan to enter or expand their presence in the Middle East within the next three to five years, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as the top investment destinations.

Curtis opined, “I am convinced that the Middle East will experience a surge in Chinese tourism, reminiscent of the rebound we witnessed from Europe and India in late 2021 and early 2022,”

In accordance with the conference’s theme, “Working Towards Net Zero,” ATM 2023 will also explore the future of sustainable travel. Having officially begun its journey to net zero, the conference programme will examine the likely evolution of innovative sustainable travel trends. It will enable delegates to identify growth strategies within key vertical sectors and provide a forum for regional experts to explore a sustainable future in advance of COP28, which will be held at Expo City Dubai in November 2023.

The annual conference exhibitor awards will also include a sustainability category for the first time. Exhibiting organisations will be recognised according to the extent to which they have considered the environmental impact of their stands and reduced their carbon footprints.

ATM 2023 is hosted by Dubai World Trade Centre, and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner, and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner.


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