Arabian Travel Market cancelled over coronavirus fears
The annual Arabian Travel Market (ATM) will not be held this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, organiser Reed Travel Exhibitions announced Sunday.
ATM 2020, initially set to be held from April 6-9, was earlier rescheduled for June 28.
But Reed Travel Exhibitions said Sunday that the rescheduled show will not go ahead. Instead, a virtual event will be held from from June 1-3 June, featuring webinars, live conference sessions and speed networking events, it added.
“Decisions like this are never taken lightly. Discussions took place at the highest level both internally and externally with local and federal government, partners, sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees who all endorsed our evaluation of the current situation and our decision to act once again, without delay,” a statement read.
“We appreciate that this is disappointing news, however everyone’s health and safety is our top priority. We are fully aware of the important role that ATM plays for industry professionals right across the Middle East region and beyond, and we believe it is our responsibility to deliver a safe and successful event when we are able to do so.”
The next edition of ATM will now be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from May 16-19, 2021.
Germany’s ITB Berlin, the preeminent trade show for the European hospitality market, was also cancelled this year.
Maldives, known for its upmarket tourism and hospitality industry, is a regular exhibitor at both fairs.
On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.
Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.
A six-case cluster, detected in capital Male on Wednesday, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Three more clusters have since been identified, putting the total number of confirmed case in Maldives to 35.
However, 16 out of the 35 have made full recoveries.
The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.
The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a lockdown in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.
Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks have also been shut.
Restaurants and cafes in the capital have been asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.
A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands is also in effect.
The coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.
Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.
However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of March. Officials say the number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives could drop by half in 2020.
All international airlines have suspended scheduled operations to the Maldives, as the island nation enforced a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa in late March in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Even before the visa suspension, the Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea were also banned from entering the country.
All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran were also cancelled.
Cruise ships and foreign yachts were also banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
With arrival numbers falling and the visa suspension in effect, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.
Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.
However, the government is at present projecting a possible 5.7 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.