Japan’s smaller ports are looking to attract international cruise ships as the country rises in popularity as a cruise destination and the government targets five million inbound visitors by sea in 2020.
Though the number of cruise ship visitors to Japan in 2018 dropped by 3.3 per cent to 2.4 million, a decline for the first time since 2013, the number of cruise ship visits increased by 5.9 per cent year-on-year, to a record high of 2,928.
While the most popular destinations were Hakata in Fukuoka, Naha in Okinawa and Nagasaki, smaller local ports across are now working to attract international cruise companies.
In April, Hitachinaka Port in Ibraraki Prefecture will welcome three foreign cruise companies for the first time: Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
According to Holland America Line, the port call will offer guests “wonderful places to restore and rejuvenate,” including at Hitachi Seaside Park where blooming nemophila flowers are popular in that season.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises will also visit the park; Kairakuen, a 19th century garden; and a fish market, according to an advertised tour.
Toshiyuki Sakakibara of Ibaraki Prefectural Government told TTG Asia that local teams are supporting cruise companies, travel agencies and land operators to deliver smooth port calls and tour operations that are “expected to have a ripple effect on the regional economy.”
Meanwhile, having found success as a port of call in the Asian market, particularly China, Kagoshima Prefecture is eyeing European cruise companies, Sumire Nakasaka of the tourism promotion department told TTG Asia.
Nakaska’s team is marketing Kagoshima’s mainland port and island ports of Yakushima and Amami-Oshima as ideal stop-off points for a round-the-world cruise departing from Europe that would arrive in Japan in spring or autumn.
On Kagoshima’s Tokunoshima, which is a popular domestic port due to its unspoilt oceans and beaches, local tourism organisations have developed a new environmental excursion to attract international cruise ships to call for the first time, she said.
“Participants will learn about how residents care for the sea before making an accessory from local shells,” Nakasaka shared, adding that local tourism facilities are ready and excited to welcome international arrivals.