Regional awards hopes

More Middle Eastern nominations than ever at this year's World Travel Awards (WTA

A record number of nominations from the Middle East have been submitted for this year's World Travel Awards (WTA), with the organisers putting the rise down to the event's increasing profile and the world economic downturn.

Abu Dhabi-based companies lead the way in the region with nominations for the awards, which recognise the best in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry.

Out of their database of 167,000 travel professionals, WTA organisers have also seen voting from the region increase significantly this year, Manon Han, executive vice president, WTA, said in an interview.

The Middle East event ceremony takes place on Tuesday in Dubai alongside the Arab Travel Market 2009 conference.

"For self-nominations we've seen an increase this year from the Middle East, especially from Abu Dhabi which has entered into various categories," said Han.

"By hosting these regional events we are becoming more known in the region as the symbol of excellence.

"We do believe the world economy downturn is playing a part too, with companies needing to set themselves apart from their competitors."

Mubadala Development, Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), Etihad Airways, Sorouh Real Estate, Royal Jet and Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) are among the Abu Dhabi companies nominating themselves this year.

Almost every category has one or more Abu Dhabi company nominated.

The awards, which have been running globally for the last 16 years, are voted by a database of over 167,000 people travel professionals mainly consisting of travel agents from around the world.

The Middle East WTA event will be the third in the region.

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