One of the Middle East’s biggest tourism fairs opened earlier this month in the United Arab Emirates and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism didn’t miss the opportunity to set up a pavilion featuring 17 companies representing tour operators, major hotel chains and travel associations.

Arabian Travel Market (ATM) – Dubai’s global tourism fair – is an annual business-to-business exhibition which showcases thousands of products and destinations from around the world to influential buyers and trade visitors.

This is ATM’s 28th tourism fair, but the first time Israel has participated in the highly-anticipated four-day event, which attracts thousands of visitors involving more than 1,500 companies from 112 countries each year. This year’s exhibition includes Bulgaria, Poland, Bahrain, Amman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Slovenia, Croatia, Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Italy, Morocco, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Africa and India.

Israel’s tourism sector has been slowly recovering since the government lifted nearly all travel restrictions as of March 1, following roughly two years of mostly closed borders and a series of five lockdowns due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Approximately 207,000 tourists flew into Israel during April, about half the number of people prior to COVID.

The Ministry of Tourism is hoping to create new business opportunities by attracting wealthy tourists from the Gulf region to visit the Holy Land. In addition, the government is looking for potential networking possibilities at the Dubai Fair in an effort to expand Israel’s tourism sector. The exhibition has previously brought together nearly 39,000 professionals, government ministers and international thought leaders to discuss, negotiate and identify the latest travel trends.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry recently hired VFS Global, a marketing services firm located in Dubai, to help increase demand for tourism to Israel. Several meetings were held with senior officials, particularly with tour operators and agents, to promote Israel as an attractive tourist destination for local residents.

This year’s theme is focused on the aviation industry, with research showing that Middle East aviation is expected to grow 6% annually between 2022 and 2027 and there has already been a steady rate of recovery in international passenger traffic.

The ATM is taking place against the background of the Abraham Accords normalization agreements signed in September 2020 and which has since led to historic collaborations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. As a result, Israeli has seen an increase in foreign investment, including tourism.

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