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Nagoya is facing stiff competition when it comes to wooing cruise liners.

Although the city boasts of being Japan’s most profitable trading port, cruise ships made only 30 stops there in 2014, barely keeping it among the top 10 ports in the nation.

Nagoya is doing relatively well with Japanese cruise ships, coming in third after Yokohama and Kobe with 27 stops last year, but is having difficulty attracting foreign cruise ships as competition for tourism income climbs among other ports in western Japan.

According to data compiled by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in May, cruise ships made 1,204 stops in Japan last year, setting a new record.

The foreign ones stopped 653 times, posting a drastic jump of 75 percent from the previous year.

Yokohama port, the most popular stop, saw foreign cruise liners visit 48 times, almost one-third of its combined total of 146.

Hakata port in Fukuoka came in second, with 99 stops, accounting for 90 percent of its total, while ports in Nagasaki and in Naha and Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture all received around 70 port calls by foreign cruise ships last year.

The tally for Nagoya? Just three.

“It’s because the city is far away from the mainland (China),” a transport ministry official explained.

The ports that have done well in the past few years, including Hakata, Naha, Nagasaki and Ishigaki, are much closer to China, where cruise vacations are booming, driven by wealthy passengers and rapid economic growth.

Many of the foreign ships are operated by European and American companies, but most of the cruises they offer are designed to attract Chinese tourists, starting at Shanghai or Hong Kong and touring around the East China Sea.

“The four ports (in Japan most frequented) are accessible (from China) in a four- to five-day trip and also have the great advantages of being close to beautiful nature and various world heritage sites,” the official said.

But to stop at Nagoya, they have to extend the trip by about two days, and many Chinese apparently believe a voyage lasting more than a week is too time-consuming.

Meanwhile, Yokohama and Kobe are popular among foreign cruise lines that cater to Japanese.

They benefit from their close proximity to metropolitan areas in both Tokyo and Kansai with large populations of potential customers and well-known tourist spots, including Tokyo, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Kyoto and Nara.

Hitochika Yonezu, head of the Nagoya Port Authority’s promotion division, admits the port needs to better promote itself.

Cruise ships departing from China have never stopped in Nagoya, and even though the port is in the Chukyo metropolitan area, it attracts few ships departing from Japan as well.

“There is definitely great potential in Nagoya port, given the area’s high population and tourist attractions,” Yonezu said.

The Nagoya Port Authority is working with the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry to promote the port to overseas customers and sent senior officials to Shanghai in February and Miami in March.

According to estimates by the transport ministry and the Okinawa branch of the Cabinet Office, passengers on foreign cruise ships that call at Naha and Hakata spend ¥32,000 to ¥38,000 per person a day on shopping and sightseeing.

Voyager of the Seas, a ship operated by Miami-based Royal Caribbean International, had some 2,500 passengers on board when it stopped at Nagoya in April during a cruise that originated in Tokyo and called at other ports in Japan and at Cheju Island in South Korea.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published June 5.

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