Ties on track for strong growth
Dr Akima Umezawa, Consul-General of Japan to Dubai and Northern Emirates.
According to the Consul-General to Dubai and northern emirates, Dr Akima Umezawa, the UAE has many positive impressions on the Asian country
Japan and the UAE are on track to take bilateral relations to a strategic realm in line with the joint statement signed last year on deepening and strengthening strategic partnership, Japanese Consul-General in Dubai said.
In an interview with Khaleej Times, Dr Akima Umezawa said the bilateral relations, which have until recently been centered around trade and investment cooperation is expanding to new areas, including artificial intelligence, robotics, space technology, renewable energy, energy from waste, food, culture, space and tourism.
In recent times, bilateral relations have dramatically developed in the area of culture and sports as well, he added.
In line with the new thrust given by Japan on boosting inbound tourist traffic from the UAE and other countries, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) will be entering the Middle East market with an office in Dubai in FY 2020.
JNTO made its presence felt at the recent Arabian Travel Market in Dubai as it looked to build on the 31 million visitors it welcomed in 2018, an 8.7 per cent increase year-on-year, the consul general said.
Umezawa said inbound Emirati tourists to Japan from the UAE surged 10 per cent last year to 8,000 Emirati visitors in 2018 while other GCC states showed an upswing of five per cent to 14,000 in the same period.
In the first half of this year, there has been remarkable surge in tourist traffic from the UAE, rising to 5,000 Emirati visitors, and is on track to record a 10 per cent growth to 9,000 by end 2019. A similar hike is expected in tourist traffic from other GCC states this year.
"We are expecting to host 26,000-27,000 tourists from the GCC in 2019, compared to 22,000 in 2018. Strong connectivity from Emirates and Etihad Airways is another positive factor, fueling UAE visitor numbers." Sports is set to be another major inbound magnet with the ongoing Rugby World Cup and Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games - both expected to draw a combined 40 million visitors in 2020, he said.
"Tourism is expected to be a key pillar of Japanese economy and the nation has set an official goal to attract 40 million inbound visitors by 2020 and 60 million by 2030," he said.
On the promotional side, JNTO is working to change perceptions of Japan by means of a combined market research and advertising campaign targeting long-haul visitors, including those from the Middle East.
The first stage involved consumer research to identify seven visitor "passions" around the themes of cuisine, tradition, nature, city, relaxation, art, and the outdoors.
The market research conducted in 2018 shows the Middle East, especially the UAE, is a potentially lucrative market with positive impressions of Japan. JNTO has identified the Middle East market as an important market for travellers seeking unique luxury experiences.
Umezawa said that Japan's trade ties with the UAE remain strong. "The UAE is our sixth largest exporter. In 2018, Japan's imports from UAE were valued at 3.0478 trillion yen, (Dh100 billion), while UAE 's imports from Japan were worth 0.8717 trillion yen. In the first half of 2019, imports from the UAE hit 1.5995 trillion yen while exports to the UAE were worth 0.4169 trillion yen."
He said that Japan will have a strong participation in Expo 2020 Dubai. The ground-breaking ceremony of Japan Pavilion at Expo 2020 was held recently. "The facade of the pavilion will combine Arabesque and Asanoha patterns, representing the long history of connections and crossing of cultures between Japan and the Middle East," said Umezawa.
The bilateral investment protection treaty signed in April 2018 marks a milestone in the UAE-Japan economic partnership and the treaty is expected to boost investment flows between the two countries, said Umezawa.
He said the number of Japanese nationals living in the UAE is more than 3,000 as per 2017 statistics.
The number of Japanese businesses operating in the UAE around 350. Japanese small and medium enterprises also play an active role and make their contributions to the UAE economy.
According to the Consul General, the Japanese technologies would contribute to developing a sustainable society in the UAE in accordance with UAE Vision 2021 and especially Environment Vision 2021. Japan has advanced technologies in renewable energy sector such as fuel cell vehicle and energy efficient urban development.
Culinary demonstration at the International Centre for Culinary Arts, Dubai.