Travel

Officials turn to cruise ships to meet Tokyo Olympic hotel demand

YOKOHAMA : Tokyo is facing a shortage of accommodation when Olympics fans pour into the Japanese city for next year's Games so officials are looking offshore - to moored cruise ships operating as floating hotels.

Despite a construction boom, Tokyo could be short as many as 14,000 rooms given an expected surge of Olympics-related tourism, said researchers.

Local officials think one solution could be to put people up in giant ships temporarily docked off Tokyo and nearby Yokohama during the Games.

Among those on board with the idea is Japan's largest travel agency JTB, which has chartered the 1,011-cabin Sun Princess for the Olympics period, complete with everything from hot tubs to a theatre.

The agency is offering packages that combine rooms with Olympics event tickets, but they don't come cheap.

Two nights in a room with a balcony combined with tickets to an Olympics football match will cost 200,000 yen (S$2,500), while two nights in a 50 sq m suite combined with baseball tickets will go for 724,000 yen.

Elsewhere, plans have been negotiated for the 928-cabin Explorer Dream ship to dock in Kawasaki, in western Tokyo bay.

And both Tokyo's local government and officials in Chiba prefecture, east of the capital, are looking into additional cruise ship possibilities.

Japan's hotel business law bans rooms without a window, but the Health Ministry last year issued an ordinance that allows ships with windowless cabins to be used as hotels during major events.

Regardless, Tokyo officials see the ships as a novel accommodation solution and are also planning to open a new cruise ship terminal days before the Games began.

Officials and industry experts hope using docked ships for extra hotel space will become common in the country, as a way to cater to visitors during special events, or even help people displaced during disasters. - AFP

TOURISM & TRAVEL