Unofficial Guide To Arabian Travel Market
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Unofficial Guide To Arabian Travel Market

Unofficial Guide To Arabian Travel Market

Dominic Ellis, editor of Business Traveller Middle East and seasoned pro at ATM, gives his guide to surviving the week.

Gulf Business

If you’re working in travel, there’s a good chance you’ll be heading to to Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre this week for the Arabian Travel Market, which this year notches up its 20th anniversary.

Those working in travel media won’t only be going to DICEC but considering whether to book in at the on-site ibis or Novotel. The days are long, the nights longer.

This year’s my 14th ATM, a stat that makes me proud and faint.

We’ve seen it all, the dinosaurs and all the youthful theatre of the boom years replaced by the more austere downturn; I have a feeling that this year we’ll see a bold ATM, a mature twenty-something reflecting the new-found confidence and optimism.

Although it’s undeniably the most hectic week of the year – coming as always, hot on the heels of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference and Business Traveller Middle East Awards – there’s something reassuring about its slot on the calendar; it signals the start of summer, and all those abundant brochures and feel-good images remind you that lazy vacation days lie ahead.

But this week is the antithesis of lazy, what with all the card-swapping, note-taking, hand-shaking, eating, drinking and networking. Oh, and not forgetting writing up stories for the magazine and website. But it’s a stimulating week, one that in some ways feels the longest, in other ways the fastest.

So here’s my top 10 tips for surviving the week.

1. Make realistic schedules
It always looks good on paper. Yes, I can see you at 11am and then you at 11.30am – until the first meeting over-runs, you realise they’re miles apart and even when you’re in the right area for the second one, you can’t find the stand.
Start late, and you’re playing catch up all day, so begin with a few spaced out appointments which will give you some breathing time and allow time for walking (and getting lost).

2. Know when it’s time
Accept some appointments will finish early, but often it’s the opposite. Finding a polite way to wind it all up and head to the next one can be challenging, particularly when you know you’re late for the next one. Accept there will be small talk at every meeting – but make sure it stays small.

3. You’ll never have enough cards
However many people you plan to meet, you’ll meet more. You’ll bump into new contacts, people you met last year who’ve moved on and old contacts with new details. Then there’s the succession of evening functions, where you’ll meet 10 times more people. So always pack more cards.

4. Make a conference call
Juggling meetings and conferences is one of the perennial challenges of ATM – and in truth, often the main problem with maintaining a punctual schedule. Choose your conferences wisely, research the speakers and the topic – and sit near the back if you need to make a sharp exit.

5. Listen and talk
It’s a week for non-stop self-promotional talk which can be tiring. Sometimes it’s better to listen. Keep focused on your goals, don’t just say the first thing, step back, add insight and value.

6. Arrive light, leave lighter
Straps biting into your shoulder are no fun for anyone, so work out what you really need to pack and bring with you – bearing in mind people will be literally throwing bags at you advertising everything from Indonesian escapes to ayervedic treatments. I’m setting myself minimalist goals this year, less is more!

7. Don’t forget to eat
An obvious point, but I’ve forgotten how many shows I’ve started off the day with a decent breakfast and then, as the day hurtles on, you’ve missed lunch and by around 2pm or 3pm, you’re running on empty (and that curled up croissant and triangle sarnie isn’t really going to cut it). Make nutrition a part of your scheduling and you’ll be a whole lot more effective.

8. A place to think
Big shows are a bit unnatural, all the background noise, the lights, the volume of people. Sometimes it’s good to escape the halls and find somewhere to sit and think; thankfully there’s no shortage of venues lining the sides, and not forgetting the numerable meeting rooms upstairs. As with food, make time for peace.

9. Goals for the evening
ATM week=fun parties, and we all love a good party! The invitations look alluring and you remember the days when you could comfortably tick off three venues in one night no problem.
But Dubai’s a lot bigger now, and sadly, you’re a lot older. Choose somewhere close to home or opt for a dinner, you’ll probably consume less, pay less on taxis and be sharper the next day.

10. Beware late nights
You’ve had a fun night, you’ve caught up with all the friends and contacts you wanted to – and you’re heading purposefully to the lift to go home. But then you bump into someone you haven’t seen for six years and start all over again. Oh dear. You’ll pay for it in the morning! It’s a busy week and make time for rest.


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