National

Japan meets annual goal of 1 million foreign guests arriving by cruise ship

Kyodo

Japan on Tuesday drew its 1 millionth visitor on a cruise ship this year, reaching a target originally set for 2020 thanks to the weak yen and relaxed visa regulations, the tourism ministry said.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism held a commemorative ceremony at Hakata port in the city of Fukuoka where the year’s 1 millionth passenger was presented with gifts by Kiyoshi Ejima, the ministry’s parliamentary secretary.

“We will aim even higher from here,” Ejima said at the ceremony. He described Kyushu, where the port is located, a maritime gateway to Japan and said the area is the driving force in pushing up the number of foreign visitors.

Tourism minister Keiichi Ishii meanwhile said the Abe administration will continue trying to improve the nation’s tourism industry and invigorate regional economies.

The number of foreign travelers arriving on cruise ships in 2014 was some 416,000, a big jump from 174,000 in 2013. The ministry attributed the gain mainly to increasing cruise ship services from China.

By destination, Hakata had the highest number of visits by foreign cruise ships with 99 in 2014, followed by Nagasaki, also in Kyushu, with 70 and Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, with 69, the ministry said.

The government plans to renovate ports across Japan that can accept large-scale liners with a view to boosting foreign travelers by cruise ship by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic Games.

According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of foreign visitors to Japan this year marked an estimated record of 16.32 million at the end of October, exceeding last year’s record by 2.90 million.