KOTA KINABALU: Cruise tourism has returned to Sabah with the arrival of the Seabourn Encore ship, bringing over 1,000 passengers, including crewmembers to the Land Below the Wind.
The cruise liner entered state waters on Wednesday (Feb 15) morning and pulled into the Sabah Port. Its most recent stop was in Boracay, Philippines.
This is the first cruise landing in Sabah this year, with the last arriving in 2020, before the closure of international borders and tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sabah Tourism Board (STB) team was on hand to welcome and present goodie bags to cruise passengers who would be spending the night in Kota Kinabalu before the Seabourn Encore set sail at 6pm from Sabah Port en route to its homeport in Singapore.
STB 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.
“This year, we expect eight cruise ships to come, and Sabah can expect to see an increase in the number of tourists visiting the state.
“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.