Facing Olympic hotel shortage, Tokyo looks offshore

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This picture taken on July 16, 2019 shows Sun Princess cruise ship, docked in the port of Yokohama. (AFP / Behrouz Mehri)
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This picture taken on July 16, 2019 shows Sun Princess cruise ship, docked in the port of Yokohama. (AFP / Behrouz Mehri)
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This picture taken on July 16, 2019 shows Sun Princess cruise ship, docked in the port of Yokohama. (AFP / Behrouz Mehri)
Updated 18 July 2019

Facing Olympic hotel shortage, Tokyo looks offshore

  • Tokyo could be short as many as 14,000 rooms given an expected surge of Olympics-related tourism
  • Japan’s largest travel agency JTB has chartered the 1,011-cabin Sun Princess for the Olympic period

YOKOHAMA, Japan: Tokyo is facing a shortage of accommodation when Olympic fans pour into the Japanese capital 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, according to 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 Olympic period, complete with everything from jacuzzis to a theater.
The agency is offering packages that combine rooms with Olympic event tickets, but they don’t come cheap.
Two nights in a room with a balcony combined with tickets to an Olympic football match will run 200,000 yen ($1,850), while two nights in a 50-square-meter suite combined with baseball tickets will go for 724,000 yen ($6,700).
The agency said it was confident about demand, partly because “we will have a shortage of hotels of a certain standard,” said Minoru Kuge, head of JTB’s Tokyo2020 Project Office.
“Although we can’t disclose the actual numbers, we have received an excellent reaction from our customers,” he told AFP on a tour of the luxury ship.
And Kuge said he expected the package to have a special draw — “a sense of unity” among customers who will all be cheering on Olympic athletes.
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.
But experts warn that a few cruise ships may not be enough.
“It is unclear if hotels ships in the Tokyo Bay will be able to cover hotel rooms shortage,” warned a report on the issue published in October by Mizuho Research Institute.
Even the number of tourists the capital can expect remains unclear because the increase in Olympic visitors may be balanced out by other tourists opting to stay away until the Games are done.
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.
“If a provincial city wants to host an international convention or other big events but doesn’t have enough accommodation, hotel ships can be a solution,” said Yoshimi Tajima, JTB’s senior official at the corporate business department.


Australia plans to censor extremist online content

Updated 26 August 2019

Australia plans to censor extremist online content

  • The country will create a 24/7 Crisis Coordination Center for monitoring and censorship
  • Australia earlier set up a task force with tech giants to address spread of extremist material online

SYDNEY: Australia plans to block websites to stop the spread of extreme content during “crisis events,” the country’s prime minister has said.
Speaking from the G7 in Biarritz Sunday, Scott Morrison said the measures were needed in response to the deadly attack on two New Zealand mosques in March.
The live-streamed murder of 51 worshippers “demonstrated how digital platforms and websites can be exploited to host extreme violent and terrorist content,” he said in a statement.
“That type of abhorrent material has no place in Australia, and we are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes, including taking action locally and globally.”
Under the measures, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner would work with companies to restrict access to domains propagating terrorist material.
A new 24/7 Crisis Coordination Center will be tasked with monitoring terror-related incidents and extremely violent events for censorship.
In the wake of the Christchurch attack, Australia set up a task force with global tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter to address the spread of extremist material online.
It is not yet clear how the measures will be enforced. Morrison has previously suggested that legislation may come if technology companies do not cooperate.