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Future for tourism attractions in 2021 and beyond discussed at ATM Virtual 2021

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Arival survey identified key trends such as online bookings, virtual tours, self-guided experience as shaping the future for tours, activities and attractions. The outlook for the recovery of the sector expected to be hyper-local and specific to destination and segment, according to Arival research.

Worth $254 billion in 2019, the tours, activities, and attractions segment of travel and tourism is not just the third-largest part of travel; it is why people travel in the first place. During the virtual element of the 28th edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Arival’s Co-Founder and CEO Douglas Quinby shared exclusive Arival research carried out with 1,500 respondents on the outlook for tours, activities, attractions, and key trends shaping the sector’s revival post-COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the research, although Global Gross Bookings in tours, activities, and attractions in 2020 were down by 80%, which is hardly a surprise, the impact of the downturn was uneven with mixed experiences across regions and variations from market to market.

Arival’s research identified that almost all operators (99%) implemented health and safety measures and that in a sector that previously lagged 10-15 years behind the travel and tourism industry in digitisation, there has been rapid adoption of technologies for online booking. Virtual tours were also a popular way for platforms to try and stay connected to their customers and generate some revenue. However, only 16% of operators tried to launch virtually, with mixed results. The research also found that as travel resumes, self-guided tours and experiences will become a viable alternative to large group experiences.

Addressing delegates online during ATM Virtual 2021, Quinby said: “This sector of travel will come back, as will the rest of the travel and tourism industry. However, as much as the impact of the downturn has been uneven for the sector, so will therecovery. What we expect to see is that recovery is hyper-local and very specific to destination and segment.”

Meanwhile, Emaar Entertainment’s CEO Zeina Dagher, who is responsible for the strategy of some of Dubai’s top attractions, including the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, KidZania, and Burj Khalifa, shared how attractions have adapted to the downturn
and where attraction development, distribution, and guest experience is headed in 2021 and beyond.

“2020 has been a year of unexpected change and the unknown. However, as an organisation, we have come out of it stronger and ready for 2021 and beyond,” Dagher said. “The speed at which we came together as a team to tackle the crisis was instrumental to our recovery. We have had to completely shift the way we work in terms of marketing, operations and pricing to offer much more value from our attractions and also to ensure the health and safety of our guests. Our diversity now is our strength, and our focus is more on our domestic tourism market and the residents of the UAE.”

Elsewhere on the agenda on the ATM Virtual 2021, hoteliers from ACCOR, Mantis Collection, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and Red Carnation Hotels convened at The ATM Hotel Industry Summit to explain how they’ve adapted to the super-acceleration of global wellness and sustainability movements, evolving their hotels and services to respond to overwhelming traveller demand for health and wellbeing solutions and sustainable practices that support the environment and local communities.

This was followed by two separate airline leadership keynote interviews, which focused on seizing new opportunities and moving ahead despite the crippling effects of the pandemic. In the first interview, Air Arabia Group’s CEO Adel Ali discussed how he is managing the crisis whilst still keeping an eye on opportunities. Meanwhile, the second interview featured flydubai’s CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith, where he shared how he envisions flydubai’s development and evolution in the years ahead and explored likely network growth, product developments, and the deepening and evolving partnership with Emirates.

Other sessions include insights and tools for COVID-19 safe recovery, how the lack of international travel has affected the regional F&B scene, the increasing importance of responsible hospitality, and the technology that will drive a more sustainable future for travel.

"Sustainability in travel and tourism has been a major focus at ATM over the years, but now, more than ever, concerns about the travel industry’s impact on the environment are becoming one of the defining issues for the sector for future generations,” said Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market. “This session highlights how technology and sustainability will converge to ensure a vibrant and responsible future for travel."

For those unable to attend the in-person event that took place last week at the Dubai World Trade Centre, ATM 2021 Virtual continues on Wednesday 26 May giving the opportunity to view sessions recorded from the in-person event, as well as participate in a range of webinars, live conference sessions, roundtables, speed networking events, destination briefings, as well as make new connections in one-to-one meetings.

The third day of ATM Virtual on Wednesday 26 May, will include highlights such as Cultural Tourism for Growth and Responsible Technology for Travel & Tourism sessions, as well as the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Conference taking place at 2 pm to 5:45 pm GST, with the theme, Ready.Safe.Travel.

The Middle East Tourism Investment Summit organised by ITIC in partnership with Arabian Travel Market 2021 will also take place virtually on 27 May.

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