Kota Kinabalu, Jan 31: Nautical tourism has the potential to bring visitors to Sabah who will stay for an extended period and generate economic spillover.
State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said Sabah needs to capitalise on the prospects of recreational boating given its advantageous location and abundance of waterways.
He said previous sailing event organised by Sail Malaysia could be a benchmark for the state to develop the potential of boating sector further and make Sabah a destination of choice for sailors.
On Monday, a group led by Sail Malaysia Managing Director Sazli Kamal Basha met with Bangkuai, who chairs Sabah Tourism Board, to brief about Sail Malaysia Passage to the East 2023 Yacht Rally and to discuss Sabah’s potential as a sailing destination.
“I think we should develop Sabah into a vibrant boating culture because we have received many locals and foreigners participating in recreational boating activities,” said Bangkuai.
“Sabah’s picturesque coastline, pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and stunning landscapes, combined with good marines for boat docking, provide a visually appealing sailing experience.
Considering the appeal of such niche interest, he said that Sabah could hold a sailing and boating exposition to draw boating enthusiasts and create revenue for local shops, restaurants, hotels, and other service industries.
“Hosting successful sailing and boating events can enhance Sabah’s reputation as a nautical tourism destination.
“Such events can generate temporary and permanent employment opportunities for the local community,” he said.
While bringing attention to environmental concerns and bolstering conservation efforts in Sabah, Joniston believed the events could also spur investment in local infrastructure like marinas, piers, and boating facilities.
Meanwhile, Sazli said Sabah offers stunning bays on par with other well-known sailing destinations for mooring boats or yachts.
This, he said, is the case with Marudu Bay, which is accessible to rural destinations where sailors can stay longer and explore the surrounding attractions as well as the local community.
According to statistics provided by Sail Malaysia, the Passage To The East yacht rally saw 386 participants between 2008 and 2022, including 24 repeat participants.
The list of rally stops in Sabah includes Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Karakit, Pulau Silingan, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Pulau Tambisan, Lahad Datu, Silam, Bohey Dulang, and Tawau.
The participants were from Australia, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United States, France, Sweden, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, among others.
“The rally is a conduit to bring new arrivals to the Sabah. We see a great potential pot because I believe many wish to come here to sail or go boating,” Sazli said.
He also mentioned that according to statistics gathered, the average tourist stays for a week, but those participating in the Sail Malaysia programme typically stay for two years.
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