Croatia and Japan have signed an Air Service Agreement following five years of negotiations as both sides seek to establish scheduled services between the two nations. “Direct air travel will significantly contribute to the exchange of tourists between the two countries and ease the process of fostering economic and other forms of cooperation. Moreover, it will not only strengthen Croatia’s partnership with Japan but also with other nations in the Far East, particularly the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)”, the Croatian Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs said in a statement. The Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs added, “Considering the possibility and forecasts, there is sufficient air traffic demand for scheduled air services between Japan and the Republic of Croatia in the future”.
Intergovernmental negotiations for the Air Service Agreement began in November 2018, and an in principle deal was reached in November of last year. Prior to the global health emergency, in 2019, when Croatia boasted nonstop flights to South Korea, Japan was the country’s largest unserved market in Asia and the third overall. That year, a total of 32.051 passengers flew indirectly between Japan and Croatia. The bulk of those travelled between Tokyo and Zagreb, which was Zagreb Airport’s second busiest unserved route and the busiest in Asia at the time. Other Japanese cities with notable traffic to Croatia included Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. The real potential of the Japan – Croatia market is believed to be significantly higher, with many Japanese travellers entering the country by bus through Slovenia or other markets in central Europe.
Despite Zagreb being the main entry point for Japanese tourists visiting Croatia, the majority head onwards to Dubrovnik. Prior to the pandemic, Japan’s largest airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA), operated summer charters from several cities to Dubrovnik. Previously, Zagreb also boasted charters from Tokyo. During those years, Croatia saw a notable increase in Japanese arrivals compared to those years charter flights from Japan were operating at a reduced rate. JAL currently codeshares on Finnair’s seasonal service between Helsinki and Zagreb, while ANA has its designator code and flight numbers on Lufthansa’s Frankfurt – Zagreb operation.
Japanese arrivals in Croatia by year
The initiative for the introduction of scheduled flights from Japan to Croatia is said to have come from the Japanese side five years ago. The Croatian Ministry for Tourism has listed Japan as one of its prime markets. “The Ministry’s strategic goal is to develop Croatia as a destination which is accessible to various airlines, particularly before and after the height of the summer season. That is why we are turning towards the Asian market, primarily Korea, Japan and China, where we are concentrating a lot of our efforts”.