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The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024, hosted at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), marks a significant milestone in the tourism industry by emphasizing regional collaboration and infrastructure development. Ran until May 9th, the event has brought together policymakers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to discuss strategies to enhance the region’s burgeoning tourism sector.

A Dynamic Force in the UAE Economy

His Excellency Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy, opened the event with a compelling speech on the Global Stage. He highlighted the substantial impact of the tourism sector on the UAE’s economy, stating, “According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), our tourism sector has been a dynamic force within our economy, contributing an impressive 11.7% to GDP in 2023, amounting to AED 220 billion.” He further projected, “For 2024, the forecast is even higher, with an anticipated contribution of 12% to the UAE’s GDP, equating to AED 236 billion.”

Panel Discussions on Regional Collaboration

Following the opening remarks, an insightful panel discussion ensued, featuring esteemed leaders: H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; H.E. Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority; H.E. Azzan Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of Tourism at the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in Oman; and H.E. Sarah Buhijji, CEO of the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority. Moderated by Richard Dean from Dubai Eye, the panel explored the balance between competition and collaboration among GCC nations to elevate the regional tourism industry.


Unified Tourist Visa and Infrastructure Developments

A major topic of discussion was the proposed GCC Unified Tourist Visa, which aims to present the GCC as a single, interconnected destination. This initiative is expected to improve accessibility and critical performance indicators such as length of stay, average spending, and employment. The panellists emphasized that the unified visa, sustainable practices, infrastructure development, and cultural promotion will drive tourism growth.

Speakers also addressed current and future infrastructure projects designed to enhance intra-regional accessibility. Key projects include investments in new and existing airports, cruise terminals, and the highly anticipated GCC Railway, which will facilitate seamless travel across the region for both domestic and international tourists.

Collaborative Efforts and Future Prospects

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, commented on the collaborative efforts, saying, “While it’s clear that healthy competition will continue to play an important role in strengthening the GCC’s world-class tourism offering, it was also encouraging to hear how collaboration is enabling the region to become more than the sum of its parts in terms of attracting global travellers. We are immensely grateful to this year’s ministerial participants, who provided a diverse range of valuable insights into the region’s unified tourism future.”

Opening Day Highlights

On the opening day of ATM 2024, we featured 12 sessions across the Global and Future Stages. H.E. Issam Abdulrahim Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, welcomed attendees with a session titled “The Gateway to Global Insights,” outlining Dubai’s key tourism objectives for the coming years.

The Future Stage introduced a series of innovation-focused sessions, including “Branding in the AI Era: How Travel Brands Can Capture Wanderlust” and “The New Age of Island Tourism.”


ATM 2024 is a pivotal event for the GCC’s tourism sector, showcasing the region’s commitment to collaboration, innovation, and sustainable growth. As the UAE aims to increase its tourism contribution to 12% of GDP, the insights and initiatives discussed at ATM 2024 will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of tourism in the Gulf region.




Written by: William Trevan