Travel Unpacked: UK scraps pre-entry visa for UAE and Japan to add Mount Fuji tourist fee

The National rounds up the most interesting tourism news you might have missed

Hikers will now have to pay a fee to walk up Japan's Mount Fuji. Unsplash / JJ Ying
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It's about to get much easier for travellers from the UAE and the rest of the Gulf to enter the UK, while non-EU citizens with Schengen visas can also now add Romania and Bulgaria to their bucket lists.

In the UAE, Australia is about to get more accessible thanks to Emirates, while Air Arabia adds Athens and Krakow to its expanding route network.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

Japan introduces visitor cap at Mount Fuji

As of this summer, Japan will introduce new visitor restrictions at Mount Fuji as it aims to protect the site from overtourism.

Littering and hiker safety has increasingly become a concern as visitor numbers rise.

This means that travellers will have to pay a fee to hike the routes along the famous mountain, and a daily visitor cap will also be introduced.

Hikers will be capped at 4,000 a day and will also be prohibited from beginning their ascent between 4pm and 2am.

The fee amount has not yet been confirmed, but plans include installing a gate at the entrance of the highly popular Yoshida trail, where a toll will be collected.

Saudi Arabia's Dream of the Desert luxury train to launch next year

Saudi Arabia Railways signed an agreement with Italy's Arsenale group last week to launch the Dream of the Desert train, which will feature 40 luxury cabins, worth $53.3 million.

There will be a maximum capacity for 80 passengers.

The 1,240km journey will embark from the Al Shamal train station in Riyadh, passing through Hail and ending up at Al Qurayyat station in the far north of the kingdom, close to the Jordanian border.

Reservations will open towards the end of the year, with operations scheduled to start from November 2025.

UK removes pre-entry visa requirements for UAE citizens

Citizens from the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia will soon be exempt from the UK's pre-entry visa requirements.

From February 22, people travelling with these passports will be eligible for Britain's electronic travel authorisation scheme, which costs £10 ($12.70).

It takes about three days to get the approval and allows users to visit the UK unlimited times within two years, although the duration of each trip cannot exceed six months.

Travellers can apply for this from Thursday through the UK government's official website or by using the ETA mobile app.

Qataris have been able to use the scheme since November.

Emirates ramps up operations in Australia

Emirates is boosting its Australian operations, upgrading its second daily flight to Brisbane to an A380 from October 1 and introducing a second daily service to Perth with a Boeing 777-300ER from December 1.

The move aims to offer more choices and opportunities for travellers, enhancing global connectivity to Australian gateways.

The increased weekly capacity by 6,900 seats responds to growing demand for international travel through Dubai and supports Australian businesses.

Emirates currently serves Australia with 63 weekly flights across Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. The Dubai airline also recently announced double its premium economy offering on flights to Melbourne from February 1.

Romania and Bulgaria to become part of the Schengen area

Starting from March 31, Romania and Bulgaria will officially join the Schengen area, enabling unrestricted movement for approximately 400 million citizens among member countries.

Both nations have been EU members for nearly 20 years, but were previously outside Schengen's borderless region.

Non-EU citizens with a Schengen visa may now also enter the countries during the 90-limit within any 180-day period.

Travellers entering the countries by air or sea will no longer need passports, as systems become more streamlined. Land-crossing regulations remain unconfirmed.

Waldorf Astoria Doha West Bay opens doors

A new Waldorf Astoria hotel has opened conveniently near to Doha's city centre in the upscale West Bay area.

The 44-storey property features 283 rooms and suites, paying homage to the brand's heritage with an Art Deco style.

Each guest receives a personal concierge for a tailored experience, while the lobby showcases a Tiffany & Co clock celebrating the falcon, Qatar's national bird, with a bezel inspired by the tips of its feathers.

The hotel also has a spa on floors 39 through 43, a fitness centre, pools and diverse dining options, including a Parisienne patisserie, the Levantine Al Fayrouz Terrace and a gourmet food hall experience with New York-inspired food.

Additional venues set to open soon include Argentinian Muru and Yun, which offers Cantonese and Taishanese cuisine in a setting that evokes 1930s Hong Kong tea houses.

Lionel Messi stars in Saudi tourism campaign

Saudi Arabia's tourism brand Saudi Welcome To Arabia has launched a global marketing campaign featuring football star Lionel Messi.

The Go Beyond What You Think initiative aims to dispel misconceptions about the kingdom, encouraging positive experiences shared on TikTok with hashtags #ShareYourSaudi.

Messi, a regular visitor to Saudi Arabia, breaks down stereotypes in a hero video, highlighting diverse locations and cultural transformation across the country. This includes destinations such as the Red Sea and Tabuk, as well as events from Diriyah E-Prix to MDL Beast.

Air Arabia expands European network

Air Arabia is expanding its European network with two new non-stop routes. Starting from June 28, the airline will connect Sharjah with Athens, offering four weekly flights. These take off on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Air Arabia is also launching daily flights between Sharjah and Krakow, Poland, from June 29.

“This new route launch marks a significant addition to our ever-growing network, offering passengers a seamless connection to the enchanting city of Krakow known for its rich history, cultural vibrancy and architectural marvels,” said Adel Ali, Air Arabia's group chief executive.

Updated: January 29, 2024, 2:44 PM