13K GCC nationals visit Japan in H1 2023

More than 13,537 GCC nationals visited Japan in the first half of 2023, which is almost close to the 2019 figures. One of the key reasons for this was the visa waiver arrangements and online visa applications in some of the GCC countries, shares Kobayashi Daisuke, Executive Director, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Dubai Office, in an interview with TRAVTALK.

TT Bureau

Could you share the latest numbers of visitors from GCC and what has contributed to this growth?

The figure of 13,537 GCC nationals visiting Japan in the first half of this year demonstrates a strong resurgence in interest. This number is remarkably close to the 2019 figure of 13,582, indicating a robust revival of interest in Japan among GCC travellers. Notably, countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain have surpassed their 2019 visitor numbers, underscoring the strong recovery of inbound tourism from these markets. The recovery in tourism from GCC countries can be attributed to several factors. The recent introduction of visa waiver arrangements and online visa applications in select GCC countries has played a pivotal role. Additionally, the complete lifting of COVID-related border control measures in April has further facilitated travel. For comprehensive and up-to-date visa information, I recommend visiting the official website of Japan eVISA https://www.evisa.mofa.go.jp Ministry of Foreign Affairs created a video explaining step-by-step procedures how to apply eVISA, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRq1JWHza6A

What are the plans for this region for the next 6 months to one year?

Since the opening of the Dubai Office in November 2021, JNTO has been conducting various promotional activities in the GCC market, including joint campaigns with various travel companies and airlines, tourism seminars in the UAE and engaging in consumer events. By providing valuable insights, travel information, and assistance, we aim to ensure that the journey to Japan is seamless and enriching for every traveller from the GCC.

How do you work with agents? Do you incentivise them?

Collaboration with travel agents in the GCC region is integral to our approach. While we don’t directly incentivise agents, we provide them with essential tools, information, resources, and support to effectively promote Japan as a preferred travel destination. Our aim is to empower agents to curate enticing travel packages and experiences that resonate with their clients’ preferences.

How do they travel to Japan? With their families and staff or do you see young single travellers?  Are they more leisure travellers?

Travel patterns within the GCC region are diverse, and we have observed a range of travel preferences. Families often embark on journeys to Japan, creating cherished memories and experiencing the country’s myriad attractions together, including visiting various theme parks, enjoying nature and historical sites. Additionally, we have seen a growing trend of young and solo travellers who are seeking unique cultural experiences and personal exploration, such as visiting anime or video game locations. It’s important to note that the resumption of certain airline routes has played a role in facilitating travel from the GCC to Japan. For instance, Emirates resumed the Dubai-Haneda route in April, and Qatar Airways reintroduced the Doha-Haneda route in June. These developments have contributed to the rising travel to Japan.

Important info related to visa

  • Since November 2022, UAE nationals are not required visas to visit Japan.
  • All foreign nationals who would otherwise be required a visa to visit Japan and who reside in the UAE, and all Saudi nationals and foreign nationals residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are now able to simply apply online for a short-term stay visa for the purpose of tourism travel to Japan. Applicants need to apply via the dedicated website Japan eVISA (https://www.evisa.mofa.go.jp ).
  • Qatari nationals can now apply at Japanese Embassies, Consulate-Generals or Consulates, to have their passport registered. Upon registration, applicants will then receive a ‘Visa Waiver Registration’ seal within their passport, which will entitle them to multiple short-term stays in Japan without a need for a visa for 3 years.

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