The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) opened its Dubai office on November 1, its first overseas office in the Middle East. In 2019, Japan saw a record high number of visitors from the GCC countries with 28,222 visitors making the journey, a 28.4 per cent increase on the previous year and the figure doubling in the past five years.
The opening ceremony was held on November 15, which was attended by Satoshi Seino, President, JNTO; Akira Ninagawa, Executive Vice President, JNTO; Yasuhiro Okanishi, Vice Minister, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism; Akihiko Nakajima, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the UAE; Noboru Sekiguchi, Consul-General of Japan in Dubai; Faisal Al Hammadi, Assistant Undersecretary for Entrepreneurship Development and SMEs — Ministry of Economy. The event also witnessed the presence of travel trade professionals, airlines executive and the members of the press.
The evening was celebrated with the local Japanese drum group, Kharsha. In an interaction about expanding Japanese tourism through JNTO's Dubai office, Tomoko Kikuchi, Executive Director, JNTO Dubai office, shares her insights on the same.
Describe the diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE.
The year 2022 is an important year for us, being the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE. By opening the JNTO Dubai office this year, we aim to contribute to the further development of tourism exchange between Japan, the UAE, and the wider GCC.
What was the vision behind opening JNTO Dubai office?
According to a survey conducted by the JNTO in six GCC countries from May to June 2021, approximately 30 per cent of respondents answered that they would like to go to Japan in the future. Food, shopping, hospitality, and appreciating the abundant nature were ranked high on the reasons to travel to Japan. Conversely, almost 40 per cent of the respondents answered that ‘I don't know much about Japan’, presenting an opportunity for the JNTO Dubai office to broaden awareness of the many attractions of the destination, further increasing interest in travel to Japan and increasing the number of visitors from the GCC in the future.
With international offices in 24 cities, the organisation aims to promote inbound tourism to Japan, providing comprehensive information about the country and the unique experiences on offer. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of visitors to Japan from the GCC doubled, reaching almost 30,000 in 2019. The Middle East is a priority market for the organisation and a key focus in achieving this goal, with the opening of the JNTO Dubai office playing a major part in the efforts to attract more visitors from the region.
How would you explain the state of tourism in Japan in coming future?
By 2030, Japan aims to attract 60 million visitors with a JPY 15 trillion (Dh 49bn) consumption annually. The Middle East is a priority market for the organisation and a key focus in achieving this goal. With the opening of the JNTO Dubai office, it will play a major part in the efforts to attract more visitors from the region.
The UAE has been silhouette of promoting Japan tourism and culture. What are your thoughts about that?
Interest in Japan within the UAE is high this year, with two Emirati athletes bringing home three medals from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. New Japanese restaurants continue to open across the city, and Japanese traditional culture is attracting more attention, with the first Emirati ikebana teacher receiving certification.
At the Arabian Travel Market Hybrid event that was held in May this year, I was happy to hear from many travel agencies that they are eager to resume their trips to Japan.
How do you plan to build awareness about Japan tourism and its offerings?
In order to build more awareness of the destination and its offerings, the JNTO will be focusing on three key areas of interest for visitors to Japan – safety, relaxation through world-class hospitality and gourmet experiences, and the natural beauty during the four seasons. As a part of social media activities, we have marked our online presence through Instagram and Facebook. Our social media accounts are essential parts of building an overall presence of our practices and culture. We started our JNTO Dubai’s social media journey on December 1 and its growing good so far. You can access our social media accounts by scanning the QR code mentioned below.
Can you elaborate on the natural beauty of Japan?
Japan is blessed with four distinct seasons, each of which brings its own delights in terms of gastronomy, nature and traditions. The seasons are at the heart of Japanese culture, and we want to highlight the different attractions for visitors through different times of the year, also emphasising the fact that Japan is one of the world’s safest destinations. One visit to Japan is never enough to experience all we have to offer.