Despite expectations that a 1,000-strong delegation traveling with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud Salman would go on a shopping spree during their four-day visit to Tokyo through Wednesday, shops reported low numbers of Saudi shoppers.
Electronics retailer Yodobashi Camera Co.’s flagship shop in the Akihabara district had decorated the store with flags and messages in Arabic to offer a welcoming atmosphere.
“We believe that customers who visited (our store in the past few days) could have been visitors from Saudi Arabia,” company spokesman Masaki Toyono said, adding that a few dozen visited on Monday and Tuesday.
The Arabic-speaking customers were accompanied by an interpreter, he said.
Toyono said he was honored that they chose the outlet.
Home electronics retailer Laox Co. saw roughly three small groups believed to be visitors from Saudi Arabia at its Akihabara store on Tuesday afternoon, a company spokesman said.
“Given that our stores are more popular with Chinese-speaking clientele, we’re not disappointed” that the number of customers wasn’t larger, spokesman Daichi Tano said.
“But given that their visit to our store had something to do with the visit of Saudi Arabia’s king … we felt grateful.”
Tano said the chain had not prepared to greet customers from Saudi Arabia in any special way and added that the visit was a surprise for staff.
He said the rare visitors purchased video and audio equipment as well as cosmetics.
Most stores probably didn’t see sales skyrocket, despite media speculation to the contrary.
“As the delegation was visiting Japan for official duties, the members were not going to engage in a shopping spree,” said Akira Takatoriya, director of Cultures Factory, which provides cultural information about Japan to the Middle East.
“Some apparently made short visits to such tourists spots like Akihabara, Ginza and Asakusa, but they had little time for sightseeing because of a tight schedule,” Takatoriya said.
Salman was accompanied by up to 1,500 royal family members, government officials, business executives and others.
About 1,000 rooms in luxury hotels were booked for the delegation, while hundreds of limousines have been reserved. Salman himself stayed at Tokyo’s State Guest House.
Salman’s group was two to three times the size of the delegation led by his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who visited Japan in September last year.
“Direct and secondary economic effects are expected,” Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) told reporters on Monday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expressed interest in the extravagant entourage.
“The 1,000-strong group is just amazing,” Abe said during a meeting with ruling party lawmakers last week, sources said.
“Department stores must be very pleased to be visited by them,” Abe was quoted as saying.
Information from Jiji added
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