Brian's Blogs

It's ATM time ... yet again again again

Was it just me, or did anyone else this year find the Arabian Travel Market somewhat of a let down? The eight halls had a somewhat lackadaisical air of depression hanging over them and if ever there was a measure of optimism at an ATM show, surely the lack of giveaways this year gave the game away.

Sure you could pick up pens and chocolates, and pens, and, errr, chocolates, but no USB sticks whatsoever (is this a first, I ask myself) – no, not even shaped like a rubber map of Bahrain (see last year’s blog entry) – nor anything more exciting than a mouse mat from Hong Kong or a polo shirt from Sharjah. Oh ok, I admit it. I did get a keyring from Interlaken to add to my keyring collection.

The press room, too, looked an apology. No piles of press releases to tempt the scribblers with exciting stories to cover; but instead a never ending supply of Danish pastries to keep the stomachs from complaining. (Just how many Danish Ps can one eat in a day, I asked myself?)

The only real bit of excitement was when a German media hound turned away from the coffee table as a Lebanese hack pushed her way forward with the inevitable result of coffee stained skirt and trousers and a flurry of colourful language from the mutually non-comprehending natives.

Down on the exhibition floor, it was a case of searching hard for what took your interest. Yemen Tourism Promotion Board? No problem, according to the catalogue. Stand ME2490 in Hall 3. Unfortunately there is no stand ME2490. Never mind. How’s about a nice holiday in Chad? Stand AF350. I rush along in anticipation to see if I can put my name down for a journo fam trip. Hmmm. I have heard of being transparent in your dealings with the press, but isn’t this just a bit too transparent?

Maybe Tunisia will be more interesting? Wll, it might have been if anyone were actually manning the stand…

But Iraq was still struggling to put on a brave face. They were delighted to have a visitor to their stand and I couldn’t get away for what felt like hours. You want to make a journalist trip to Iraq? Of course we can accommodate you. Just tell us when you will fly over, where you will stay etc etc and we will be happy to help you. Hmmm… I’m afraid cheapo Brian was expecting something a little more from a Press trip guys….

Traditions still held up from last year, of course; but in a case of hunt-the-most-embarrassing typo the best I could come up with was a stand from Norway – or ‘Norwegan’ as it read.

And true to tradition, for the second year running, title for the most embarrassing costume had to go to the Dubai Shopping Festival…

…with Sharjah coming in a close second.

There were of course a plethora of eye catching costumes to, errr, catch the eye. As always Asia came up trumps with a Thai girl strumming some instrument

While the Malaysian stand spared no expense in bringing out their finery

Though this year, pride of place had to go to the Azerbaijanis

The Filipinos once again decided to promote their country with a relaxing massage centre on their stand. ‘Tips are welcome’ they hopefully suggested. Well for what it is worth, here’s a tip: suggest to your masseuses that they get an early night tonight so they don’t spend the entire time yawning in front of their customers.

This year, too, there were a number of press conferences being held, though much fewer than last year. As expected, Qatar Airways failed to disappoint. Well, nearly…. Because the exhibition’s opening ceremony, which included the red ribbon cutting, was unavoidably delayed, as the guest of honour apparently failed to make it out of bed, Qatar’s CEO, the irrepressible Akbar Al Baker, arrived at his press conference 22 minutes late. Just as last year, this seasoned pro soon had the assembled hacks eating out of his hand as he fed them one statistic after another, playfully putting down a Reuters scribbler who wanted to know more than he was willing to give away. Last year Qatar Airways introduced 15 new routes; this year it will be 14. There’s a new plane delivery on average every 18 days!

I remember at last year’s ATM, when QR was introducing its Buenos Aires route, it staged a mini floor show of a couple dancing the tango. This year, the Argentine stand also trotted out a couple of tango dancers who showed off their moves in the so-called Culture Zone.

There was no doubt about it – they were stunning dancers, and it was sad that the gawping Indians, of whom there were many present, seemed intent on getting their kicks from seeing flashes of the girl’s black knickers rather than from the amazing dance routines the couple trotted out. Certainly every time she raised a leg, their flash guns would explode in unison.

And finally, it just had to be the Australians, didn’t it, whose humour was verging on cruelty. As one passed their stand, it was impossible not to do a double take – and see this pathetic kangaroo strung up as if on a gibbet. I mean, how sad was that! Someone should have reported them to the animal rights activists who, I am sure, would have sorted the ozzies out. And doubled the number of visitors to their stand at the same time!

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