Sabah eyes becoming a sailing destination

KOTA KINABALU: Nautical tourism has the potential to bring visitors who will stay for extended periods in Sabah which will benefit the economy through spillovers.

Assistant State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said Sabah needs to capitalise on the prospects of recreational boating, given the state’s advantageous location and abundance of waterways.

In a statement yesterday, he said the sailing event previously organised by Sail Malaysia could be a benchmark for the state to further develop the potential of the boating sector and make Sabah a destination of choice for sailors.

A group led by Sail Malaysia managing director Sazli Kamal Basha met Bangkuai, who is chairman of Sabah Tourism Board, to brief it about the Sail Malaysia Passage to the East 2023 Yacht Rally and 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.

“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,” said Bangkuai.

Considering the appeal of such niche interest, he said 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, Bangkuai believed the events could also spur investments in local infrastructure such as boating facilities.

Sazli, meanwhile, 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.

“This means the rally is a conduit to bring new arrivals to Sabah. We see a great potential pot because I believe many wish to come here to sail or go boating,” Sazli said.

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