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Japan: Ports and Harbors Act Amended to Encourage More Foreign Visitors from Cruise Ships

(July 25, 2016) The Japanese government has in recent years made efforts to attract greater numbers of foreign visitors.  To that end, the Cabinet established the Tourism-Oriented Country Promotion Cabinet Members Conference in 2013. (Regarding Establishment of the Tourism-Oriented Country Promotion Cabinet Members Conference, Cabinet Consent (Mar. 26, 2013), Cabinet website (in Japanese).) As one part of these efforts, the Ports and Harbors Act has been amended, and the amendment was promulgated on May 20, 2016. (Act to Amend the Ports and Harbors Act, Act No. 45 of 2016, OFFICIAL GAZETTE (in Japanese).)

The number of foreign tourists going to Japan has been increasing over the last few years, and during the first half of 2016, 11.7 million foreigners visited the country, the highest number thus far and representing a 28.2% increase over the number from the first half of 2015. (Foreign Visitors to Japan, Highest Number, 11.71 Million … Spending per Person Decreased, YOMIURI NEWSPAPER (July 20, 2016) (in Japanese).) One rapidly increasing category is visitors coming to Japan on foreign cruise ships. (Bill to Partially Amend Ports and Harbors Act, at 1, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism website (last visited July 25, 2016) (in Japanese).)

The government decided to facilitate improvements to Japanese ports to accommodate more foreign visitors arriving by cruise ship. The amendment makes no-interest government loans available for construction costs of port facilities incurred in making ports ready for tourists. (Ports and Harbors Act, Act No. 218 of 1950, amended by Act No. 45 of 2016, art. 55-7 ¶ 2.) In addition, the amendment authorizes port authorities to designate non-profit organizations (NPOs) as cooperative organizations and to promote tourism jointly with them. (Id. art. 41-2.) For example, NPOs and the port authority can host events to welcome tourists arriving by cruise ships. (Id. art. 41-3.)