KOTA KINABALU: Sabah expect to welcome eight cruise ships this year following the first arrival of Seabourn Encore at Sabah Port in Feb this year.
The cruise liner brought in over 1,000 passengers on board via Boracay, Philippines to mark the first landing in Sabah since 2020, before international borders closed to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.
After an overnight in Kota Kinabalu, the ship continued the voyage to its homeport in Singapore.
Sabah Tourism Board chief executive officer Noredah Othman said the resumption of the cruise tourism industry is an encouraging sign that Sabah remains a popular destination for cruisers.
“The return of cruise ship tourism can help to promote Sabah as a tourist destination to a broader audience, allowing visitors on board to explore the city and nearby attractions.
“Cruise ships typically visit multiple destinations on a single itinerary, and the exposure that Sabah gets as part of this itinerary can encourage tourists to consider Sabah a standalone holiday destination,” she said.
Noredah said cruise ship tourism had contributed tens of thousands of visitors to Sabah, stressing the vital need to tap into the cruise market for the state to diversify its tourism industry.
This poses an opportunity for more products to be introduced especially within the city center for cruise passengers. This is not limited to Kota Kinabalu as cruise ships berth in Sandakan as well.
Sabah had the most cruise ship arrivals in 2019, with 26 cruise liners and 37,431 passengers.
In 2018, Sabah received 21 cruise ships and 21,738 passengers, compared to 17 cruise ships and 23,474 passengers in 2017.
From January to February 2020, Sabah received five cruise ships and 9,140 passengers.