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Costa Serena sees Malaysia as ‘game-changing’ cruise destination market, expanding presence in Asia

KUALA LUMPUR: With cruise tourism emerging as a key sector in elevating Malaysia’s global appeal, Italian cruise liner Costa Serena is expanding its presence in Asia, offering itineraries that include destinations popular among Malaysian travellers such as Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Hwajing Travel and Tours, Managing Director, Kenny Cheong.

By providing convenient access to these destinations, Costa Serena caters to the preferences of Malaysian consumers looking for diverse and culturally enriching experiences, more so with promotional plans toward Visit Malaysia 2026.

In January this year, transport minister Anthony Loke said Port Klang’s designation as an international cruise homeport for the Costa Serena cruise ship will boost the country’s tourism sector.

He said the collaborative effort between Costa Cruise Lines and Hwajing Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd (HTT) could bring enduring economic benefits and lasting advantages for the country.

HTT managing director Kenny Cheong said to leverage this expanding market, the company has diversified its cruise portfolio by partnering with Costa Cruise Lines and introducing a wide range of itineraries.

“From short weekend getaways to extended voyages across international waters, we aim to appeal to a broader segment of travellers.

“Notably, we have introduced chartered cruises exclusively tailored to the halal market, further enhancing our offerings,” he told The Exchange Asia.

Cruise tourism emerges as a key sector in elevating Malaysia’s global appeal, in line with the destination’s promotional plans toward Visit Malaysia 2026, the nation’s upcoming campaign to welcome 35.6 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2026.

In 2023, Malaysia witnessed unprecedented cruise arrival figures, with its ports welcoming 1,055 cruise ships carrying 1,520,608 passengers—an 84.78 per cent rise in ship arrivals and a 62.43 per cent increase in passenger numbers compared to 2019 pre-pandemic rates.

As a burgeoning tourism hub in Southeast Asia, Malaysia currently serves as the home port for two cruise lines operating from Port Klang in Kuala Lumpur, with plans for further expansion.

The Costa Serena’s maiden voyage departed from Port Klang in January 2024, marking a historic milestone in Malaysia’s aspiration to emerge as a premier homeporting destination.

Costa Serena is the latest addition to Kuala Lumpur’s list of cruise partners choosing it as their homeport.

Cheong pointed out that Malaysia has a geographical advantage in Southeast Asia and historical significance in the Straits of Malacca as a vital shipping channel, further enhancing its appeal as a cruise destination for accessing a diverse range of regional destinations.

He said favourable conditions for growth are evident with the government’s strong commitment to tourism, including cruise tourism, and the transport minister’s recognition of the industry’s significance.

“HTT’s reputation for offering cost-effective inbound cruises, paired with collaborative partnerships with cruise operators and tourism authorities, further enhances Malaysia’s attractiveness as a cruise destination compared to neighbouring countries.

“In addition, HJJ actively collaborates with cruise operators, tourism authorities, and various stakeholders across Malaysia to bolster the country’s cruise tourism market and elevate its appeal to travellers,” he said.

Cheong said HTT is developing tailored marketing campaigns highlighting Costa Cruises’ unique features and offerings.

These campaigns will emphasise factors that resonate with Malaysian travellers, such as Asian-inspired itineraries, authentic cuisine, and family-friendly amenities.

The company is also forming strategic partnerships with local entities such as travel agencies, tourism boards, and media outlets to enhance Costa Cruises’ visibility and reach in the Malaysian market.

“We employ several strategies to ensure Costa Cruises stands out in the Malaysian market.

“These include thorough market research to understand traveller preferences, collaborating closely with Costa Cruises to tailor itineraries to Malaysian tastes, maintaining flexibility to adapt to changing trends, and continually innovating to offer unique experiences,” said Cheong.

Officiating the event in January, Loke said Costa Cruise Lines’ acknowledgement of Malaysia as a promising market, combined with HTT’s established reputation in Southeast Asian cruise tourism, highlights the shared vision of their collaboration to explore the halal market in the country.

He said the establishment of Costa Serena as Malaysia’s first international cruise homeport is a game-changer, elevating Malaysia to a premier international cruise destination.

“This positions Malaysia as a regional leader in job creation within the cruise industry and is also a shot in the arm for supporting sectors such as accommodation, dining, transportation, and retail.

“Port Klang’s designation as an international cruise homeport opens doors for collaborative ventures with other regional ports, laying the foundation for a network of intersecting cruise itineraries,” Loke said.

Costa Serena offers three exciting voyages from Port Klang for the December holiday season.

These are a 4 days 3 nights trip to Phuket, a 3 days 2 night trip to Penang, and a 6 days 5 nights exploration journey across Vietnam and Hong Kong.

The cruise itineraries have been designed to enable guests to maximise their time at the port-of-calls in Phuket and Penang whilst ensuring a smooth disembarkation process

It is also the only cruise ship sailing from Port Klang to Phuket in December,
making it perfect for an inexpensive and inclusive island vacation.

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