Attracting tourists year-round to Johor


Johor Baru typically sees visitors only during weekends and holidays. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

Most visitors come only during peak periods and this needs to change, say stakeholders

IT HAS been 18 months since the reopening of Johor’s border with Singapore, but visitor numbers to the state are still far short of pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels.

Thus the state, through Tourism Johor, is carrying out a multi-pronged strategy to improve numbers by increasing Johor’s visibility to tourists.

Its director Suhairi Hashim said that between April and December last year, Johor welcomed approximately 8.5 million local and international visitors.

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“In the first four months of this year, we received about 2.8 million visitors.

“This brings the total number of visitors in one year (April 2022 to April 2023) to around 11.3 million since the border reopening.

“In 2019, the year before the country was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, we received over 17 million visitors,” he told StarMetro.

Traffic congestion at the Causeway has eased following frequent checks by the Johor Mentri Besar. — FilepicTraffic congestion at the Causeway has eased following frequent checks by the Johor Mentri Besar. — Filepic

The Johor-Singapore border reopened in April last year following a two-year closure.

Suhairi said Tourism Johor had been doing their best to increase efforts to spur the tourism sector, including holding special events.

“We received nearly 650,000 visitors to Majestic Johor Festival 2022, and almost half-a-million visitors to the Pasir Gudang International Kite Festival earlier this year,” he said.

At present, the majority of international visitors to Johor are from Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Suhairi said the agency had also implemented targeted marketing and promotional campaigns.

Suhairi says the state government is increasing efforts to promote Johor.Suhairi says the state government is increasing efforts to promote Johor.

“These campaigns utilise various channels such as print media, digital marketing, social media and participation in international travel fairs and exhibitions.

“We are having more collaborations with travel agencies and operators as well as improving connectivity.”

He said the state hoped these efforts would attract visitors headed to Singapore for concerts scheduled to be held there next year.

“Tourism Johor will also collaborate with Singaporean counterparts to promote joint tourism initiatives and attract visitors to both destinations.”

American pop star Taylor Swift will be performing six shows in Singapore (her only Asian stop) next March while British band Coldplay is set to perform six shows there in January.

Fans from all over the region are expected to attend the sold-out concerts and Johor is hoping for a spillover effect.

Teo says the state government should attract the corporate sector in Singapore to hold meetings and events in Johor.Teo says the state government should attract the corporate sector in Singapore to hold meetings and events in Johor.

Suhairi believed improvements in traffic flow at the Causeway and Second Link between Johor and Singapore would also help attract more visitors to the state.

“Traffic flow and congestion are common concerns at busy border crossings, especially during peak travel periods.

“Delays and long wait times can be frustrating for both industry players as well as tourists.

“Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi has instructed relevant authorities to take various measures to improve traffic flow,” he said, adding that the Mentri Besar had also made frequent impromptu checks at land crossings and these had yielded results.

Suhairi, however, admitted that there was still limited awareness of Johor as a tourist destination, and this meant that the agency needed to invest more in marketing and promotional activities.

“There is also the problem of connectivity, with the limited number of international flights to Johor Baru that dissuade tourists from coming here.

Lim says there is a need to improve Johor’s image, especially that of the state capital.Lim says there is a need to improve Johor’s image, especially that of the state capital.

“We are working with the relevant stakeholders to address this, along with enhancing public transportation and infrastructure,” he said.

Other efforts being undertaken by Tourism Johor include diversifying tourism offers by promoting attractions such as ecotourism sites, historical and cultural landmarks.

“Johor has traditionally been known for its theme parks, but we actually have a wide range of attractions.

“By diversifying tourism offerings, we can attract a broader range of visitors,” said Suhairi.

He said Johor faced the challenge of being seen as a seasonal holiday destination.

“Our tourism sector is also facing issues related to seasonality where we receive a high number of visitors only at certain peak periods.

“We need to show that Johor is a year-round holiday destination, through the diversification of our tourism offerings,” he added.

More needs to be done to promote Johor’s tourism destinations such as the islands off Mersing. — FilepicMore needs to be done to promote Johor’s tourism destinations such as the islands off Mersing. — Filepic

Malaysian Association of Hotels Johor chapter chairman Ivan Teo said the economic climate following the pandemic had also affected the global tourism industry.

He said the tourism sector in Johor had mostly been lively only during weekends and public holidays.

“The number of visitors that Johor has been receiving after the border reopening is as expected,” said Teo.

“Many were excited initially when the border reopened and visited more frequently.

“The excitement is slowly subsiding. On top of that, many domestic visitors are facing financial constraints due to inflation and are finding ways to cope with the rising cost of living.

“It is natural for them to eliminate holiday budgets, leading to the difficulty we face in getting local visitors.”

Uplifted: Pasir Gudang Kite Festival 2023, which attracted thousands of visitors from around the world, is one of the events in Tourism Johor’s calendar. — THOMAS YONG/The StarUplifted: Pasir Gudang Kite Festival 2023, which attracted thousands of visitors from around the world, is one of the events in Tourism Johor’s calendar. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

He said there should be more focus on attracting international visitors who had greater spending capability.

“One area that the state government can look into is to attract the corporate sector in Singapore looking for venues to host meetings and events.

“The rate for such venues is increasing in the republic and we can offer a more affordable package that will also give them a chance to explore Johor.”

Teo said medical tourism should also be given priority.

Meanwhile, Johor Baru Business and Hawker Association president Roland Lim said the number of visitors to Johor had been significantly lower than expected, despite the congestion at the border and Johor Baru downtown area.

“It may seem as though the tourism sector has recovered but the reality is that we are still far from achieving what we had prior to the pandemic.

“Many visitors, particularly foreigners, are more keen on other parts of the country.”

Lim said there was also a need to improve Johor’s image, particularly that of Johor Baru.

“Despite getting fewer visitors, we are seeing more congestion and parking problems in Johor Baru town.

“This could also discourage people from driving here.

“On top of that, the issue with parking touts and people driving dangerously could also give the impression of Johor being an unsafe place.

“I hope that the authorities will look into changing this,” said Lim.

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