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Cruiselines tell Japan ports to step up

Cruiselines tell Japan ports to step up

Fukuoka: The potential for Japan as a cruise destination and opportunities to expand its ports of call was discussed at the opening panel session at the Japan Cruise Symposium taking place in Fukuoka.

Christopher Hayman, chairman, Seatrade and moderator, who saw two cruise ships at Hakata port as he touched down in the city, commented the discussion revealed a wide range of engagement and experience between the various cruise lines represented and Japan.

Rama Rebbapragada, regional vp, International, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd said their ships calling in Japan have doubled, if not tripled, in recent years.

Rebbapragada, who is also current chairman of the Asia Cruise Association (ACA) formed in 2008, said there is a need to build better partnerships with more communication about shoreside attractions in Japanese destinations and saw the symposium as a great place to engage with different stakeholders.

Tatsumichi Araki, assistant vp, Star Cruises who is a native of  Fukuoka said Japan is perceived as a very expensive destination. He said cruising needs to be presented as a value-for-money and ideal way to exprience Japan.

He said awareness is currently quite low for Japan tourism. 'People who come look for the "real" Japan and what is unique and unusual here. Currently most Japanese think cruising is only for wealthy people. Japanese have fears about language [barriers] and culture. Cruising is very niche, maybe only a luxury cruise, once in a lifetime,' commented Araki.

Dario Rustico, sales & marketing director, Pacific Asia Operations, Costa Crociere reminded the audience that it was Costa which first deployed year round vessels in China. He said Costa called 24 times in Nagasaki in a year bringing in some 20,000 passengers to Japan.

Now Costa has more than tripled deployment in the region and will make a total of 76 calls in Japanese ports this year. 'This is a strong contribution to Japanese inbound travel,' To continue this pattern of growth, he said, there is a need to tap into different Asian markets  to overcome seasonality issues. He said Japan needs to step up and play an important outbound role as well if it wants to play a bigger role in cruise industry. 'Growing the market will encourage us to bring in more and bigger ships to the region.  Outbound will feed inbound', he said at this point in Japan's cruise evolution.

Bruce Krumrine, vice president, Shore Operations-Europe & Exotics, Princess Cruises brought his usual philosophical approach conjured images of geishas, samurais, mountains and the rising sun, saying 'lifetime iconic memories' could be experienced on a cruise to Japan.
He encouraged Japanese ports to aim to be marquee ports. It is important to cruise lines to meet their customer's demands and take passengers to where they want to go. He acknowledged the appeal of Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Ports whould discuss collectively how to promote cruising, Krumrine advised and said Princess shares a long history and a bright future with Japan.

Simon Douwes, director, Deployment & Itinerary Planning, Holland America Line uses Kobe as its main Japanese port with three ships making nine calls this year. her noted it was typical for HAL ships to be in Japan for a few weeks as part of a longer US-Asia-Australasia routing.

Darius Mehta, associate vp Air & Land Programs, Silversea Cruises noted Silver Shadow's Asia programme this year will count 25 calls in Japanese ports and the same number is projected for 2012. [02/09/10]