RIYADH: Prior to the onset of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Japan had witnessed a surge in the number of tourists from Saudi Arabia, and the country’s tourism board is keen to revitalize this once international travel resumes on May 17.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), a total of 11,152 Saudi tourists visited the East Asian country in 2019, a year-on-year surge of 50.6 percent.
However, due to global travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic, Tomoko Kikuchi, executive director of the JNTO’s Dubai Preparation Office, told Arab News the numbers declined rapidly last year.
“Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the number decreased more than 90 percent in 2020. We do not expect it to recover soon, but we hope to return to 2019 levels at the soonest,” she said.
In a bid to revive interest from visitors in the region, the JNTO has put in place a strategy to raise visitor numbers to their pre-pandemic levels.
As part of its goal to attract 60 million international visitors per year by 2030, the JNTO announced in April that it is planning to establish a regional office in Dubai and to exhibit at the Arabian Travel Market, the Middle East’s largest tourism exhibition, which starts in Dubai on May 16.
The number of tourists from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries who have visited Japan has doubled in the last five years, reaching 28,222 in 2019.
With Saudi visitors making up nearly 40 percent of GCC visitors before the pandemic, the JNTO partnered with global travel and tourism sales and marketing firm AVIAREPS Middle East to promote Japan in the Saudi market.
“Many travelers from Saudi Arabia visit Tokyo and Kyoto to enjoy the unique cityscapes that fuse traditional and contemporary culture, to try Japanese food and to do some shopping, but there are many other attractive aspects to Japan. Nature is abundant, and you can enjoy the beach in the summer and skiing in the winter. We would like to promote various Japanese tourist attractions in the Saudi market this year,” Kikuchi said.
“It is great to know that vaccinated Saudi citizens will be allowed to travel overseas from May 17. When the COVID-19 situation improves internationally and domestically in Japan, we would like to welcome tourists from Saudi Arabia,” she added.