INDUSTRY experts speaking at last week's Cruise Shipping Asia-Pacific have touted Japan as a huge potential source market given that the country's senior market is 15 million strong – double Hong Kong's population.
Celebrity Cruises’ commercial director for Asia Pacific, Kelvin Tan, said: “We should look at (baby boomers) since they should have nice nest eggs from their retirement funds. They could fill our low-season cruises and can take the longer cruises that we want to promote.”
Sailings to Europe, South America and Australia are popular in Japan, he said, adding that he had seen a huge increase in business and even full ship charters as Celebrity Cruises starts to run more sailings out of Asia.
However, stumbling blocks remain. Said Tan: "Tough consumer protection laws heavily favour the consumer, making it challenging for cruise operators who need high-volume business. It’s also difficult to operate shorter cruises due to the cabotage law that restricts non-Japanese cruise lines."
Dominic Paul, senior vice president international, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara Club Cruises, and managing director, RCL Cruises, added: “Japan is a market that somehow never quite lives up to the expectation everyone have for it. Despite economic struggle in last few years, it’s still a very affluent population but cruising has never taken off.”
Nevertheless, Paul predicted: “Over the next five years, we will probably see Japan picking up.”
According to NYK Cruises’ managing director, Masami Masuyama, about 238,000 Japanese travellers spent their holidays on cruises in 2013, of which 122,800 boarded international cruises.
He said: “Japanese cruisers prefer to do short itineraries for families in summer as it’s difficult to take long vacations, while the retired choose long cruises in winter. With over 17 million outbound Japanese travellers in 2013, there is plenty room to grow, not forgetting the senior population, with one in four being over 65 years old.”