Cruise Ship Influx to Overwhelm Miyakojima’s Economy

By ,   December 12, 2016 ,   Cruise Industry

Amid rising expectations for economic growth, the tourism boom in Japan exposed need for the regional authorities to develop infrastructure and help secure manpower needed to deal with influx of foreign tourists.

Miyakojima in Okinawa is one of those struggling tourist destinations. As a growing number of cruise ships arrive from abroad, the island’s government and business circles are struggling to address such issues as the limited capacity of its port and the lack of taxi drivers.

Miyakojima received 85 port calls from cruise ships in the first seven months of fiscal 2016 starting in April, well above the 14 logged the previous year. The passenger tally meanwhile surged to a record of 123,578 in the same period, eclipsing the 11,023 logged the previous year, according to authorities in Hirara port.

Chinese account for a large portion of the total, a development seen throughout Japan as incomes climb with its giant, expanding economy.

But the port’s limited capacity is proving to be a nuisance. The berths at Hirara port can accept ships as large as 50,000 tons. Heavier vessels must anchor offshore, forcing passengers to come ashore by boat. Around 30 percent of the cruise ships calling at Miyakojima this year have been forced to stay offshore, requiring as long as two hours in some cases for everyone to disembark.

The Miyakojima Municipal Government is building a new berth that can accept 70,000-ton ships that is expected to open in March 2021. The city is also upgrading its port management plans with an eye to accommodating vessels as large as 200,000 tons.

Securing transport for tourists is another source of concern.

On August 24, taxis suddenly vanished from the downtown area and Miyako Airport as the drivers rushed to deal with a surge in passengers at Hirara port caused by two cruise ships that were calling at the same time to escape a typhoon.

The unusual event caused around 4,100 passengers to land at the same time, paralyzing the transportation.

Residents and incoming airline passengers were unable to find cabs, and taxi companies were swamped by complaints.