According to Malaysia’s transport ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Saripuddin Kasim, the cruise industry has been identified as a key driver of future economic growth, and the three ports – Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Kuching (Sarawak) and Labuan on the Malaya Peninsula, all have significant potential to attract more visitors to the country.
Currently Port Klang in Selangor and Penang are Malaysia’s major tourism centres for cruise ships. Malacca is also currently being developed, with the Malacca Gateway project slated for completion in 2025, supported by a US$10 billion investment from China announced last November.
Says Saripuddin, “Tourists prefer terminals which are closer to local attractions, so the development of the Malacca Gateway certainly fits this purpose”, adding that Malacca had the potential to be the next tourism centre after Penang and Kuala Lumpur, given its strategic and cultural significance in Malaysia’s maritime history.
The number of cruise passengers visiting Malaysia is also on the rise, according to statistics from the country’s Marine Department. Last year saw a total of 73,691 domestic arrivals up dramatically from 59,158 in 2014, while the international arrivals grew to 88,989 in 2015, up from 65,822 the previous year. From January – May this year Malaysia welcomed 29,483 domestic ship arrivals and 35,869 international ship arrivals.
According to Port of Klang Authority chairman Tan Sri Kong Cho Ha also Kong, 77 cruise ships alone have called on Port Klang’s Boustead Cruise Terminal so far this year, bringing in over 140,000 passengers, with the terminal expected to welcome another 150 cruise ships and 300,000 passengers before the year’s end.
Says Kong, “Ideally we would like to see a major cruise company like Royal Caribbean collaborating with the Malacca government to develop the Malacca terminal as its regional hub”, adding that at the moment, most cruise ships preferred to berth in Singapore.