‘Do more to woo tourists to Johor’

Johor needs more international flights to attract foreign tourists into the state, says Subramaniam. — ZAZALI MUSA/The Star

JOHOR government has been urged to be more proactive in promoting and marketing the southern state as a tourism centre.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Johor chairman K. Subramaniam suggested that Johor Tourism should come up with plans to revitalise the state’s tourism sector.

“We need to come up with new attractions and products or else we will start losing to other Malaysian states,’’ he said when contacted.

Currently, he said domestic and foreign tourists did not have many sites to visit and see.

“The nightlife in downtown Johor Baru is not as vibrant as in Kuala Lumpur and George Town, and our city is quiet after dark,’’ he added.

Subramaniam said that before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, there used to be cultural show packages that came with lunch and dinner at traditional Malay villages in the suburbs of Johor Baru city.

He hoped Johor Tourism could work closely with travel companies to bring back such packages as well as the night cruises from Danga Bay to Puteri Harbour.

He said the city was livelier even at night before the old Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) was demolished after the Sultan Iskandar CIQ complex opened in December 2008.

“Many people patronised the restaurants and stalls offering street food, especially Malaysians working in Singapore on late night shifts,” he said.

Johor needed to differentiate itself from other states when promoting tourism and not focus only on certain products, he added.

Subramaniam said Johor was not only about Desaru beach and theme parks as there were many other attractions such as islands, rainforests and mangroves among its various natural wonders.

“We need more international flights to Johor Baru, unlike now with the majority of visitors flying into Singapore and then bypassing Johor to visit Melaka and Kuala Lumpur,’’ he noted.

Similarly, he hoped Johor Tourism could take hotel and tour operators along when promoting the state at tourism exhibitions overseas.

“Post-Covid-19 pandemic, tourism industry players like us were not taken to international tourism exhibitions to promote Johor unlike what is done by the Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak state governments.”

It was important for Johor government to work closely with the industry players as they would know best about the market and the needs of tourists, he added.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Johor Chapter chairman Ivan Teo said Johor had the right ecosystem to further develop and strengthen its medical tourism sector.

“Medical tourism offers good growth opportunities and prospects for the state,’’ he said, adding that Johor had at least seven big private hospitals and 40 medical facilities offering quality services.

Statistics showed that Johor was popular with Indonesians seeking medical treatment, especially those from the Riau islands.

“We have three international ferry terminals and it is easy for them to travel to Johor via ferry,’’ said Teo.

He said MAH Johor Chapter was collaborating with private specialist hospitals in Johor Baru to attract medical tourists from Indonesia, China and even India.

“We have direct flights from Indonesia’s Jakarta and Surabaya, and Guangzhou in China to Johor Baru. These three cities offer good opportunities for our medical tourism,’’ he said.

Five training sessions, he added, had been conducted by the relevant authorities for travel agents and operators from Indonesia on Johor’s medical tourism sector.

“Medical tourism creates multiplier effects for our economy as health tourists not only spend money for their treatments and medical consultations,’’ said Teo.

He said patients’ expenses included lodging, meals and shopping for their family members who accompany them.

It was reported that Tourism Johor hoped to attract at least 100,000 international visitors by the end of the year for medical tourism.

In June last year, the Malaysia Health Travel Council reported that the country’s medical tourism industry in 2019 had raked in RM1.7bil in hospital receipts alone.

The report said the spillover effects into other industries contributed an estimated RM7bil to the economy.

It added that the medical tourism sector was expected to continue growing with a projected annual revenue of RM2bil in 2025.

Meanwhile, Teo said Singapore offered Johor good prospects in the wellness segment including spa, manicure and pedicure, which Tourism Johor needed to explore further.

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