Marketing snapshots from the Arabian Travel Market

Along with thousands of my industry colleagues, I recently made the annual pilgrimage to the region’s busiest travel trade sales and marketing event, the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. As usual, after my business had been concluded, I took advantage of some free time to wander around the vast exhibition halls with one of my Saudi colleagues seeking out unusual marketing initiatives, while other colleagues took the opportunity to enjoy the exotic complimentary refreshments and collect a wide assortment of gifts offered by the major hospitality brands at their corporate booths and stands. 

The first marketing gimmick — if I can call it that — to literally “grab” my attention was a pulley box from Hilton, which 3,000 lucky attendees did indeed grab and fill with the usual collections of hotel brochures, CDs, flash drives, pens, diaries, calendars and other sales and marketing collateral dished out by the exhibitors. I thought this was a brilliantly innovative piece of low-cost, high-impact marketing as I spotted these well-branded boxes being pulled around by hundreds — if not thousands — of exhibition visitors.

Another excellent example of “big” marketing — and a big crowd-puller — was the Big Red Bus, which operates a fleet of these attractive double-deck coaches around Dubai, driving hundreds of thousands of curious tourists around the city each year as they marvel at the city-state’s futuristic-looking hotels and office towers and the numerous swanky and stylish resort hotels lining the pristine beaches. The buses can also be rented for special occasions such as themed cocktail parties and staff outings.

Yet another unusual marketing initiative came from Atlantis, one of Dubai’s iconic beachfront properties, which encouraged Arabian adventure-seekers to virtually visit the property.

One of my young Saudi colleagues tried out the virtual experience and was suitably impressed, although a little dizzy afterwards, and even made a reservation for his family for a later date, proving that this new virtual marketing technology gets real-time results.

This simply stunning poster from The Oberoi in Mumbai certainly caught my attention and that of many others who were dazzled by its banner tagline, proudly boasting “The Best Hotel in the World.” I have been fortunate enough to experience this iconic property over the past several decades and certainly believe as a customer and as an industry professional that it deserves to be right up there with the best of the best in terms of quality and service. I congratulate its marketing team on the bold decision to make this simple yet highly effective poster the focus of the hotel’s well-attended stand.

One of the region’s leading airlines took the opportunity to show off its latest first-class sleeping compartment at the exhibition, which I tried out and found very comfortable indeed, almost dozing off after having the headset and eye shades fitted snugly by the charming flight attendant.

This marketing initiative begs the question, why don’t hotels show off their bedrooms at such exhibitions? I would love to see and sample the latest high-tech bedrooms and suites from our region’s leading brands displayed in the same way as the airline cabin was so that we could all learn from each other.

But I guess my competitors want us to actually pay and stay with them if we want to see and experience their latest products, which is a pity, really, as I do believe the best way to push our industry standards forward is to learn (not copy) from each other, and that by showing off complete rooms and suites — whether budget, mid-scale or upscale — at this well attended travel market we could actually raise our standards, our competitiveness and even our rates across brands and borders.  

After all, when we visit an auto show, bike show or boat show we all like to see, feel and touch our dream cars, bikes and boats, so why can’t we do the same with our dream beds?

I would like to hear from industry colleagues who also visited this year’s ATM to share their thoughts on the best marketing initiatives spotted at the show.