Japan is seeking to more broadly disperse its growing number of cruise guests by promoting calls to a broader range of destinations across the island nation.
Matt Joslin, PR and communications manager at the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), told TTG at WTM London cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Silversea and Celebrity Cruises were already looking to utilise Japan’s growing number of ports capable of handling cruise ships.
The JNTO’s aim, said Joslin, was to shift focus away from established choke points like Tokyo and Kyoto and instead promote the idea of taking in some of Japan’s cultural experiences, such as its spring cherry blossom, elsewhere across the length and breadth of the country.
“We want to make people think more broadly about different destinations and travelling in different seasons,” he said. “That’s the basis of our ongoing philosophy.”
Joslin highlighted Japan’s southerly Kyushu island and particularly Saga prefecture as one area where there has been a particular focus on developing cruise infrastructure.
He added the country was also positioning the island of Okinawa as a “the Caribbean of Asia”. “It’s perfect for cruise,” said Joslin. “It’s a destination people can return to rather than just drop in on.”
Japan’s main cruise markets are currently the US, Australia and the UK.
Elsewhere, Joslin said the recent Rugby World Cup had driven strong footfall in recent months, setting the country up for next year’s Olympics Games.
While the games will centre around Tokyo, Joslin said a significant proportion of the activities will be devolved to the regions, providing opportunities for other destinations to capitalise.
Central pillars of Japan’s growing tourism focus include ski, hiking and other outdoor pursuits like cycling, as well as wellness pursuits.
“Tour operators are seeing these as a real opportunity,” said Joslin. “Japan is well set up for that.”
Joslin added the Olympics would be an opportunity to demonstrate regeneration efforts in regions such as Tohoku in the north, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.