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Mixed response to show debut

The inaugural MENA Travel Catering Exhibition has been hailed a grand success by organisers, yet a number of participating companies have claimed they felt let down by the event.

The inaugural MENA Travel Catering Exhibition has been hailed a grand success by organisers, yet a number of participating companies have claimed they felt let down by the event.

Organiser, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), said the show would put “leading industry players and suppliers in touch with their target markets”, but some exhibitors said visitor numbers were disappointing, and that the event failed to meet their expectations.

“We’ve been participating at Gulfood for two years, so we expected visitors from Africa and across the region. There are supposed to be people from airlines and the hotel industry, but there are very few faces from these industries,” commented Prithvi Tandon, head of marketing, Speedway Food and Beverages.

The exhibition was held alongside the International Travel Catering Association’s (ITCA) Middle East conference from September 4 to 6.

The director of Arrow Logistics, Nicky Beades, attended the three-day exhibition, after the company was well received at ITCA’s previous show in Valencia. However, Beades criticised the organisation of the Dubai event.

“We were led to believe the show was geared towards African and Middle Eastern airlines, when in fact we actually had more contact with these companies in Valencia,” he revealed.

Beades also said the show should have run over two days instead of three, which he felt would have been an adequate duration for the number of visitors in attendance.

“Our overall summary of the show is that had we not made good contacts with Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways and Pakistan International Airlines, it would have been hard to justify the cost, time and preparation required”, he added.
Stefan Czapalay, the corporate chef for frozen shellfish processor Clearwater Fine Foods, was also shocked at the turnout.

“I’ve worked at more than a hundred trade shows. We’re usually feeding about 4000 people within three days, but here we gave out between 50 and 100 portions for tasting,” he said.

Sponsored by Emirates, Al Accad Group and Adel Abuljdayel Flight Catering, the exhibition allowed participating companies to unveil new products and services.

Nestlé Foodservice, for example, used the event to increase awareness of its travel channel division, with plans afoot to cater to the cruise and train markets with its convenience products.

“We thought people would be shy about participating at this event, but it has been successful for us,” according to Rabie Issa, foodservices business manager, Nestlé Foodservice, UAE and Oman.

Other exhibitors gave Caterer positive feedback on the event, including MKN, which was promoting its combi-steamers. Many exhibitors unanimously claimed a slow start was characteristic for a brand new show, and that 2007 would bring higher numbers of visitors.

“Most new trade shows start with few customers, but by the third year, the event will be much busier,” commented Frank Holland, the owner of BestPartner, a supplier of deep frozen products.

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