Travel trade operatives at Japan’s regional ports are set to get a boost under a new tourism plan to increase the number of ports that accept foreign-registered cruise ships to 100 by 2025, up from 67 in 2019.
Interest in Japan is high since the country lifted its three-year docking ban on overseas-registered cruise vessels in March and is set to rebound quickly according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, which estimates port calls by such ships in 2023 could reach 60 per cent of the 2,000 recorded in 2019.
The national government’s new Tourism Nation Promotion Plan, which was approved at the end of March, will encourage ports in Japan’s rural areas to welcome international cruises in a bid to curb over-tourism and spread tourism spending nationwide, including to remote islands.
In 2019, the ports of Naha in Okinawa, Hakata in Fukuoka, and Yokohama in Kanagawa, were most visited by foreign-operated cruise ships, according to government data, but now lesser well-known areas will have opportunities to contend with larger ports.
In Kagoshima Prefecture, which stretches from the southern tip of Kyushu to Okinawa Prefecture, mainland and island ports are scheduled to receive 149 calls by international cruise ships in 2023.
In northern Japan, Yamagata Prefecture has listed welcoming international cruises as “one of the pillars in its efforts to attract inbound tourists” in its new tourism plan, said Yuta Endo, chief officer of the prefecture’s inbound promotion section.
The resumption of China’s cruise sector this month is adding confidence to the market as Chinese visitors accounted for about 80 per cent of all international arrivals at Japan ports in 2019.
On June 19, Blue Dream Star operated by Blue Dream Cruises departed from Shanghai for Japanese ports and, in July, the CSSC Carnival will begin sailings from Shanghai to Okinawa.