Nautical tourism has the potential to bring visitors to Sabah who will stay for extended periods which will benefit the economy through spillover.
State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai said Sabah needs to capitalise on the prospects of recreational boating given Sabah's advantageous location and abundance of waterways.
In a statement Tuesday (Jan 31), he said the sailing event previously organised by Sail Malaysia could be a benchmark for the state to develop the potential of the boating sector further 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 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.
"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 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, Bangkuai believed the events could also spur investment in local infrastructure like marinas, piers, and 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, United States, France, Sweden, South Africa, 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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