“Discover The World.” Arabian Travel Market
Last week I attended my first ever Bloggers’ Speed Networking session at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM). The hour-long networking session took place on the last morning of the four-day annual event that was held at the Dubai World Trade Centre. I’m not going to lie I was super nervous about everything; what to say, what to wear and what if no one came to see me!
Awake far too early at 5am due to an anxious knot of nervousness in my stomach, I finally left the apartment at 8am to grab a taxi (hoping not to get stuck in the unpredictable rush hour traffic on the Sheikh Zayed Road) armed with my laptop and a stack of business cards.
What is Speed Networking?
The five-minute mini face-to-face meetings were taking place in the Networking Arena in one of the exhibition halls. Each blogger was assigned a high table and chair, a number and brief blog description (more anxiety ensued should I stand or sit, what’s more approachable). A queue of ATM exhibitors had already formed by 9:30am and at 10am they charged towards the tables.
Who is there?
Hoteliers, accommodation providers, tour operators and travel industry specialists who are all registered as ATM exhibitors were given a list of participating bloggers and from that they decide who they want to see within the designated hour. I was relieved to see some of the people had put a star by my name in the guide and came to chat and exchange business cards. I saw a diverse group of really nice people from well-known hotel chains here in the UAE, European travel companies and representatives from further afield like India and Thailand as well as private jet and tour operators. Some were a fit with my blog and some were not.
It was clear, as with everyday blogging and networking, that it’s a numbers game, “How many followers do you have?” was a repeatedly asked question and as I’m already aware Instagram is incredibly important to brands in this social media age of the ‘Influencer’. My website was definitely second fiddle to my Instagram feed which was interesting considering the amount of information contained in a blog post compared to an Instagram post. It’s all about the power of social engagement and Instagram is clearly the King, out delivering both Facebook and Twitter.
What did I learn?
Firstly as with most things it’s not as daunting as you anticipate once it gets started, people were generally friendly and chatty. You need to know your product and be confident in what you can offer and most importantly don’t be intimidated (easier said than done). As much as it was good to meet the exhibitors it was also good to meet with other bloggers, some who I have only previously connected with on social media and some who were new to me. Overall it’s good to be out of your comfort zone and after all it’s an opportunity to share what I’ve created, I learnt I have the confidence to sell myself to a bunch of strangers (also much easier to say than do) and as I reminded myself, everyone had to start from scratch once upon a time.
I left the event with plenty of business cards and it’s important to follow-up on those that fit with your site and what you are doing. The networking continues way after the hour of speed networking has finished.
What is ATM?
ATM is one of the six worldwide events that form part of the World Travel Market (WTM) creating global opportunities for the travel industry through its events and networks. ATM brings together tourism professionals from around the world to access business potential within the Middle East’s internal and external markets.
I visited on the second and last days and as well as walking around the vast exhibition halls I attended a couple of panels including one discussing the future of luxury travel. Local and global luxury travel specialists such as IHG, Etihad and Facebook shared their predictions on top trends in terms of guest experience, service, destinations and hotel design moderated by Rhea Saran, Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Traveller Middle East. I was also invited to the press conference for an exciting new venture opening in Dubai, La Perle. This aqua and aerial Vegas style extravaganza curated by Franco Dragone was unveiled to the press at ATM, this exciting project will have its permanent home at Al Habtoor City when it opens later this year.
The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Final photo used with courtesy of twitter.com/atmdubai/