Cruise ship at Hakata Port. Photo credit: Japan Tourism Agency
THE Japanese government is planning to attract more cruise operators by further investing in ports throughout the country.
Cruising is already booming in Japan and authorities see significant opportunities for greater growth.
Funds will go into landing bridges and other infrastructure for large cruise ships. Work will also take place to deepen ports to enable larger ships to dock.
Cruise operators have welcomed the news with Kelvin Wong, vice president of commercial for Costa Cruises Asia, describing the plans as “definitely good news, and beneficial to Costa and the cruise industry in general”.
“This will help to ease berth congestions that we are seeing, such as at Hakata, which will, in turn, allow cruise operators to make more calls and bring in more foreign passengers,” he toldTTG Asia e-Daily.
For 2016, cruise ships are expected to dock at Japan’s 20 largest ports more than 1,600 times, a 40 per cent increase from last year.
At Hakata alone, which serves as the gateway to Fukuoka City and much of northern Kyushu, cruise ships are expected to moor 352 times this year, up 36 per cent from 2015. From January to May, more than 350,000 foreign visitors entered Japan through Hakata.
Cruises that feature Kyushu are becoming increasingly popular in part because of the relatively low prices of tours. A four-night, five-day tour departing Shanghai to Jeju in South Korea and Hakata costs around 50,000 yen (US$498) per person.
Nagasaki port is likely to see 195 cruise ships visiting this year, with 214 anticipated at Naha in Okinawa, up 23 per cent on last year. Miyakojima, also in Okinawa, is scheduled to have 95 visits this year, a sharp increase on the 13 arrivals last year.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has also set up a new office in April tasked with attracting more foreign cruise operators.