KOCHI – The city of Kochi has become an increasingly popular stop for cruise ships following the construction of a new port, but many local businesses have been unable to capitalize on the thousands of foreign tourists visiting in constant waves.
To improve the situation, the city and prefectural governments are surveying visitors to learn about their needs while also promoting stops by cruise ships.
The 168,000-ton Quantum of the Seas arrived at Kochi New Port in mid-June from Shanghai with some 4,800 passengers aboard.
After being taken by bus from the pier to tourist spots, including Kochi Castle, the tourists crowded into drug stores and other shops and restaurants.
However, according to kimono shop operator Keisuke Nakanishi, they mostly just take photos and sales don’t spike.
The port became able to host 160,000 ton-class passenger ships after its construction was partially completed in 2014.
The number of cruise ship stopping at the port increased to 30 in fiscal 2016, which ended last March, from eight a year ago. For the current fiscal year, at least 32 cruise ships plan to visit.
To further increase the visits, the prefectural government has begun inviting foreign cruise ship operators to join monitor tours, and government officials attended a trade show in the United States to promote the port.
“We hope to promote use of the port and boost inbound consumption,” said prefectural official Toshihiro Tsuneishi.
The local governments are conducting a survey of passengers and crew members on arriving ships about their spending and travel habits while in Japan.
Yoshiki Yamamoto, head of a business association in the Kochi’s Harimaya Bridge shopping area, is pinning his hopes on the survey, saying, “We should know what the visitors want.”
The central government is also promoting cruise ship visits to the nation’s ports as part of its policy to promote tourism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy.
The government aims to increase the number of foreign visitors arriving on cruise ships to 5 million in 2020 from 1.99 million in 2016.
The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2016 was a record 24.04 million. The government hopes to host 40 million foreign visitors in 2020, the year Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games.