Can cruise ships ease the accommodation strain during Tokyo Olympics?

Authorities and MSC Cruises in talks to dock MSC Lirica (pictured) in Tokyo during the event

Concerned about a significant shortage of hotel accommodation when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is working with travel agencies and cruise ship operators to use luxury liners as floating hotels for the duration of the event.

Just 16 months ahead of the opening ceremony for 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Mizuho Research Institute has released a study suggesting that there will be a shortfall of 14,000 hotel rooms each night during the Games.

Authorities and MSC Cruises in talks to dock MSC Lirica (pictured) in Tokyo during the event

The Tokyo government is in discussions with Switzerland-based MSC Cruises over docking the 65,000-ton MSC Lirica at Tokyo’s No 15 pier for the duration of the event. The cruise liner has 992 guest rooms.

“Our cruise ship has all the facilities of a hotel and would be suitable, but the discussions with the city authorities are ongoing and no final decision has been reached yet,” said Hiromi Tomioka, head of the the cruise operator’s marketing department.

Using cruise ships as moored hotels is “complicated,” she admitted, as a ship needs to meet the city’s regulations on conventional hotels, such as the removal of waste and the provision of water.

Domestic travel giant JTB Corp has overcome those problems and started to market rooms aboard the Sun Princess, which will be docked in Yokohama during the games. Rooms aboard the 1,011-cabin vessel start at 30,000 yen (US$271) per night, but rise to 600,000 yen (US$5,411) for the ship’s best suites.

“We knew there was going to be a shortage of accommodation in Tokyo during the games and that it was important for us to be able to secure rooms for our clients, so we believe this is an innovative and relatively easy solution,” said Kaori Mori, head of branding for JTB Corp.

She added that the travel agencies that have started offering packages aboard the vessel during the Olympics have been receiving “a lot of inquiries, in part because it is going to be totally different from staying in a hotel.

“A lot of people like the idea because they’re getting the experience of a cruise at the same time as being able to attend the Olympics.”

Cruise ships were also used to provide additional accommodation at the last two Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro and London.

A record 31.2 million foreign tourists arrived in Japan in 2018, up 8.7 per cent on the previous year to mark a new record high. Tourism authorities here expect to hit the government’s target of 40 million arrivals in 2020.

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