Okinawa unveiled a road map to develop the southern island prefecture into a major cruise ship hub for international liners in East Asia.
Via the 3-phase scheme, starting 2018, the prefectural government is trying to achieve the goal of drawing 2M cruise passengers from abroad in fiscal 2021 as part of the broader attempt to stimulate local economy.
The project aims to make Okinawa the “Caribbean of Asia,” and centers on improving facilities to expand the capacity for receiving cruise liners and passengers, including port terminals and piers, and creating attractive tour products.
Starting this year, local government officials more frequently attend conventions, visit cruise companies and travel agencies, to collect up-to-date information and market the charms of Okinawa. The prefecture will set up a system to help facilitate networking and communications among companies and organizations engaged in cruise business within the prefecture.
From 2019, Okinawa will make efforts to be the host of Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacific, the largest convention for cruise industry in the region. Some of the other goals include making Okinawa a turnaround port, involving cruise vessels sailing from and coming back later, instead of being a waypoint, and increasing the amount of time and money that tourists spend during the stays.
The last road map's stage, covering a period from 2021 onward, focused on pulling in investment from cruise companies and other private enterprises, and preparing for the goal of building a resort complex which houses a cruise terminal, hotel and shops.
Last year, 888,300 cruisers from abroad visited Okinawa and registered a 6-fold increase from 2012, according to local officials. In 2017, cruise ships made a total of 515 port calls in Okinawa, which is the highest number in Japan. The number is due to reach 662 in 2018.
On April 3, the 151,300-ton mega cruise ship World Dream arrived in Okinawa for the first time, bringing in about 4,600 travelers. The 18-deck liner, operated by Hong Kong-based Dream Cruises, is scheduled to drop off cruisers in the prefectural capital of Naha on Tuesdays and at Miyakojima on Wednesdays through October.