Bid to regain lost glory

A view of one of the islands off South China Sea taken from Bukit Cantik — the highest peak in Mersing district.

JOHOR BARU: Mersing Tourism Association (MTA) wants to compile data on the number of tourism players to develop the tourism sector in Mersing district.

MTA secretary Ahmad Firdaus Shaik Omar said presently there was no official statistics or data on the exact number of tourism players in the district.

“This data is important for us to transform, develop and position Mersing as an international tourist destination, ’’ he said when contacted.

He further said that MTA would work closely with the Mersing District Council (MDM) and Mersing District Office (PDM) to gather data from them.

He hoped to start the exercise in January, involving chalet, resort, budget hotel and homestay operators on the mainland as well as islands in Mersing waters.

He said that also to be included were tourist guides, villagers, islanders, boat operators and fishermen who were directly or indirectly involved in tourism-related services and products.

Ahmad Firdaus said the exercise initially slated for March was postponed when the movement control order (MCO) due to the Covid-19 pandemic was implemented on March 18.

“Right now, we only have data on 37 tourism players who are association members, ’’ he revealed, saying that MTA was established in March this year.

He urged all tourism players in the district should become members of the association to benefit from the efforts by Johor government to develop the state’s tourism sector.

He welcomed the move by the state government to review Johor Tourism Master Plan 2014-2023 to take the tourism sector to the next level.

He said the Johor Budget 2021’s RM500,000 allocation for the Johor Tourism Interchange (JTI) would help tourism players promote and market their products and services digitally in a single “Market Place”.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, Mersing district was popular among domestic and foreign tourists but by the 1990s, it started to lose its shine, ’’ said Ahmad Firdaus, adding that it was time to regain the lost lustre.

Back in 2012, there were plans to develop and transform Mersing district, located on the north-east of Johor, about 130km from Johor Baru, into an international tourist destination.

The ambitious RM22bil project involving local and foreign companies aimed to turn the coastal town of Mersing into the likes of Bali, the Caribbean islands, Gold Coast and Hawaii within seven years.

Among the components in the now defunct Mersing Laguna project were 22 blocks of five-storey boutique hotels with 3,000 rooms, 4,000 villas and service apartments, a marina and commercial development.

Those involved in the multi-billion ringgit project said it was aimed at attracting tourists with high-spending power and travellers who loved nature and eco-tourism.

Mersing district has more than 40 unspoilt islands in the Seribuat Archipelago in South China Sea and is home to Endau Rompin National Park, which has a forest estimated to be 200 million years old.

Mersing town is one of the two towns on the eastern part of Johor (the other is Kota Tinggi) and lies on the main trunk road connecting southern and eastern Johor to the east coast of Pahang, including Kuantan.

It is the main departure point for ferries to nearby offshore islands such as Pulau Tioman in Pahang and the islands in the Seribuat Archipelago.

“We believe Mersing can reclaim its glory days with the right marketing and promotional campaigns.

“And we are banking on the rich flora and fauna and eco-tourism as the district’s selling points, ’’ said Ahmad Firdaus.

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