KUALA LUMPUR: There is potential to revive the cruise tourism industry in Sandakan, Sabah, according to Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.

The Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister said early assessments found that Sandakan Port can be made popular to attract tourists particularly from Europe, with eco-tourism and wildlife the main draws in Sandakan.

“Other proposed strategies include reactivating the Malaysian Cruise Council that links policy makers and industry players to set industry direction and address any hurdles that stunts the growth of the cruise ship industry.

“This includes improving the port infrastructure, as well as the administration of Customs, Immigration and quarantine (CIQ),” said Tiong during Ministers’ Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday (July 3).

Tiong said his ministry and Tourism Malaysia held a site visit to Sandakan, Sabah, in April to assess present amenities and promotion suitability.

Tiong also said the Transport Ministry had spoken to his ministry and Tourism Malaysia on May 3 to identify steps to revive the cruise tourism industry in Malaysia.

Tiong was responding to Vivian Wong (PH-Sandakan) who asked about steps taken to develop Sandakan into a cruise destination in Malaysia.

Wong then raised a supplementary question, asking whether there are plans to allow cruise ships in Sandakan to purchase more fuel, as the present 100l daily limit is not enough, given that the average cruise ship requires 400l a day to operate.

In response, Tiong said the special permit to purchase more fuel was under the purview of the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry.

“But, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is always ready to cooperate with any other ministry to improve the image of the country,” added Tiong.

Tiong also said it was crucial for the state and federal governments to work together in promoting tourism.

Sabah had the most cruise ship arrivals in 2019, with 26 cruise liners and 37,431 passengers.

In 2018, Sabah received 21 cruise ships with 21,738 passengers compared to 17 cruise liners with 23,474 passengers in 2017.

From January to February 2020, Sabah received five cruise ships and 9,140 passengers.