GEORGE TOWN: The decision by the Health Ministry to issue a blanket ban on all cruise ships from docking in the country is another for blow for the tourism industry.

A circular issued to the Penang Port Commission said the ban would take immediate effect.

There had been increasing number of cancellations of hotel bookings said Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) chief executive officer Sasedharan Vasudevan.

He pointed out to date no cruise ships that docked in Penang had reported cases of Covid-19.

However, the port authorities would cooperate fully with the health authorities as the safety and security of the people and cruise passengers are top priority, Sasedharan said.

Penang is the top five destination for cruise ships in Asia, and there are plans to expand the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal to accommodate two super mega cruise ships.

Between January and May in 2017, a total of 253 cruise ships called at the 11 ports in Malaysia, an increase of 9.48% compared with the same period in 2016.

For the same period, the country received 405,554 cruise passengers compared with 330,473 passengers, which was an increase of 18.51%.

Affordable exchange rates, sound infrastructure and numerous tourist attractions, are among the plus points for cruising, making Malaysian an ideal stopover.

Besides Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan have also banned cruise ships from boarding in their respective countries due to Covid-19.