OKINAWA, Aug. 25 －Sales of Wagyu beef by an agricultural corporative in Okinawa (JA Okinawa) for Hong Kong cruise ships are doing well. JA Okinawa began offering the beef for the cruise service provider based in Hong Kong in April this year, and in the first three months, it sold more than 10 million yen. Guests on the boat need to pay extra to select premium dining options that include the beef from Okinawa. However, many people still want to spend the additional fee, 10,000 yen, on top of the cruise fare. Because of such popularity, the number of cruise ships that offer the Okinawan beef increased in July to four from one. The number of cruise ships that stop at ports in Okinawa is also increasing, thanks to a growing demand from inbound travelers to Japan. JA sees it as an excellent opportunity to establish a new sales channel.
“World Dream,” a cruise ship of Genting Hong Kong Ltd., can accommodate more than 4,000 passengers and stops at the ports of Naha and Miyako-jima. Its restaurants offer premium courses such as Okinawa Wagyu teppanyaki BBQ or shabu-shabu hotpots. According to the cruise company, many of its guests find these Okinawa Wagyu dishes worth the additional cost.
JA Okinawa has a team specialized in the sales promotion of Okinawan products. The team “Export Strategy Office consisting of three members, one manager in his thirties and two personnel in their twenties, was established in November 2017. It actually made visits on the cruise ship to pick up requests from the new client. The JA takes orders and set prices approximately two weeks before the delivery.
The goal of the strategy office is to make the cruise ship a new strong outlet of the JA products. In April and mid-August, the JA had Wagyu cooking demonstrations on-board where personnel from the JA showed chefs on the boat how to cut the Wagyu beef, for example. The presentations were also featured live on a large screen on the vessel. The live show targeting the guests allowed the JA to promote the brand image. JA Okinawa also sells its signature products such as brown sugar and Sheikwasha (flat lemon) juice to expand its market for non-beef products, as well.
The number of cruise ships that stop at ports in Okinawa is steadily increasing. According to the Okinawa General Bureau, the number of ships that stopped at Okinawan ports in 2017 was 515, the highest in the country. The figure is expected to rise in 2018 for nine consecutive years.