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BITE, an answer to economic depression
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By Zhou Jing and Maverick Chen
China.org.cn staff reporters in Bahrain

Bahrain International Travel Expo kicks off on May 14, 2009.

Bahrain International Travel Expo kicks off on May 14, 2009.

Bahrain, the little pearl on the west bank of the Arabian Gulf, is regarded as a reclusive Garden of Eden by the locals, largely due to its exotic natural scenery, open way of life, and its immunity to the on-going world financial crisis. While the rest world wonders at the unaffected tempo of life here, the BITE may offer part of the answer.

BITE, the acronym for Bahrain International Travel Expo, is a yearly exhibition that provides a platform on which the local tourist business meets interested visitors from around the world. This year, the BITE opens on May 14 and will last 3 days.

Despite the unprecedented challenge resulting both from the economic downturn and from recent H1N1 epidemic scares, MEEM - Magnum Events and Exhibition Management - has still managed to bring 104 exhibitors from 40 counties, both from the Gulf States and beyond.

High-profile officials including members of the Royal Family and ministers visit the Expo.

High-profile officials including members of the Royal Family and ministers visit the Expo.

Jamil Wafa, founder and group chairman of Magnum Holding, MEEM's parent company, tells the local Daily News: "BITE 2009 is about invigorating the travel and tourism industry. Consumers love to travel. By focusing on business-to-consumer relationships at BITE, we will awaken our consumers' excitement and curiosity, and a passion for travel to our exhibition."

Sunshine Tours then, is a successful business model in this field. First starting travel services in 1980, Sunshine has steadily built its reputation in Bahrain and adjacent countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It was to celebrate its 25th anniversary that the Bahrain authorities decided to launch the BITE in 2005.

"The financial crisis affects everybody and we are no exception. But the negative impact on us is very limited," Walid, sales manager of Sunshine tells China.org.cn that his company works extensively with other countries in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and the USA with a reputation based on sound, professional, and personalized service, and a comprehensive range of exclusive products. Consequently, an increasing number of people are discovering the World of Sunshine Tours and return year after year for more fun-filled vacations.

Walid, sales manager of the Sunshine Tours, talks to China.org.cn.

Walid, sales manager of the Sunshine Tours, talks to China.org.cn.

Mounted on the top of Sunshine's booth is a huge picture of the Great Wall. Responding to the journalists' curiosity, Walid points out that the Great Wall evokes the spirit of China and the Far East, and all travel agencies in the Gulf Region have realized that China is the market that no one can afford to miss out on. Currently, Sunshine is in a business relationship with 2 Chinese travel agencies, including one in Hong Kong, and he plans to expand his presence in China while aggressively advertising the China market at home.

Referring to Sunshine's success, Walid goes on to reveal that part of this stems from their unselfish sharing of experience among other travel agencies, whom Sunshine regard more as co-petition than competition.

The Expo also includes a series of other activities. On the evening of May 14, a renowned Egyptian singer Medhat Saleh opened the BITE's entertainment at the Diplomat Radisson SAS, launching a whole series of other on-site events, including shows by folk dancers from Azerbaijan, a Syrian dance troupe's performance, Qatar Airways' offering, and traditional Italian dances and songs.

For the fifth successful year, BITE 2009 is held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and chairman of the Bahrain Economic Development Board. BITE is an annual event organized and managed by MEEM which aims to showcase current travel trends, projects and new emerging destinations around the world.

Sunshine Tours’ staff pose for a photo before the Great Wall poster.

Sunshine Tours' staff pose for a photo before the Great Wall poster.

BITE 2009 continues to further its aim of being a catalyst to strengthen the rapidly growing tourism business in Bahrain and the region by offering innovative ideas and exciting destinations to existing clients while endeavoring to develop a broad new clientele.

(China.org.cn May 15, 2009)

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