Andrew Hughes, Vice President Hotel Sourcing Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa
Reflecting back on my first ATM, it was 2006 and I was working for IHG at the time, managing the leisure business for their portfolio in Australia and New Zealand. When it came to doing business in the Arabic world, I was a true novice, and was fortunate to have some Australian contacts help me navigate my way around not only the show, but how the agency landscape and the people operated. The importance of the corridor conversation was clear and the value of networking.
The wonderment of the show and the market was captivating and two years later I found myself living in Dubai and on this occasion, working for the not-yet-open Atlantis, The Palm. With so much expectation around the development, the show was a blur, racing between our resort stand and the Dubai destination stand. With so much interest, we needed two booths to keep up, and are sure I wore out my voice and a pair of shoes in the space of 3 days.
Gaining the trust and interest of the market is critical, and when working for Movenpick’s Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel a few years later, we were the successful bidding to be host hotel for ATM 2012. We hosted buyers from all around the world, and then hosted 2000 delegates for the party of all parties. In my years in the hospitality industry, I’ve always said “if you’re going to host someone, do it properly” and that we did. Imagine acrobats, hanging upside from the 30M high ceiling serving drinks and having waiters turn to dancers in Dubai’s first hotel flash mob. In a cluttered market, you have to do something extraordinary to be remembered.
Every business talks about the value of relationship, though in my opinion, in the Middle East, the term is more relevant than elsewhere. Working as the Vice President of Hotel Sourcing for GTA, I now sit on the distribution side of the industry and ATM has become a way to reconnect in what is a fragmented market. Customers and hoteliers come from all around the region on a quest for business, knowledge and fun.
At ATM, it’s not so much the fixed meetings that generate the opportunities; it’s what happens on the side lines. It’s the chats in the aisles or at networking drinks where curiosity and conversation flows, some of the better deals are struck and yields the opportunity to stand out from the crowd.