Haven for nature and history buffs

From Pulau Tanjung Surat, tourists can get a boat ride to see the nearby mangrove forest. — Photos courtesy of Tourism Johor

State agency using targeted advertising campaign to enhance visibility and attract visitors to Kota Tinggi

KOTA Tinggi is poised to become a premier tourism destination for the Visit Johor Year 2026 (VJY2026) initiative, which aims to establish Johor as a leading tourist destination in the country.

With less than two years to prepare, tourism stakeholders in Kota Tinggi have begun outlining their strategies and implementing plans for redevelopment and enhancements.

This is no small feat, as Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi aims to attract 12 million domestic and international tourists to the state.

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Onn Hafiz recently assumed control of the tourism portfolio, a role he previously held before becoming Mentri Besar in March 2022.

According to Johor Tourist Guides Association chairman Jimmy Leong, the state’s cultural heritage is a major draw.

Muzium Nelayan Tanjung Balau is currently being upgraded by Kejora.Muzium Nelayan Tanjung Balau is currently being upgraded by Kejora.

“It is important to appreciate the tangible and intangible aspects of our history that connect us to the past,” he noted.

He said Kota Tinggi was directly linked to the establishment of the Johor Empire by Sultan Alauddin Riayat Shah II in 1528.

“The state government must trace various historical events, from the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese in 1511 to the founding of Johor in Pekan Tua on Sungai Sayong along the Johor River,” he added.

Historical sites like Kampung Makam, Laksamana Bentan and Kota Sayong should be promoted, marketed and made accessible to tourists, Leong said.

“With these historical elements in place, effective delivery of the visitor experience is crucial, with storytelling playing a key role in making the events engaging and memorable.

“Local history should also be connected globally by expanding historical ties with Singapore, Riau and Lingga to engage visitors and highlight the significance of this shared history,” he added.

Leong says Kota Tinggi’s historical sites should be promoted and made accessible to visitors.Leong says Kota Tinggi’s historical sites should be promoted and made accessible to visitors.

Southeast Johor Development Authority (Kejora) general manager Datin Paduka Hazlina Jalil said Kota Tinggi boasted numerous tourism attractions, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

“As a historical tourism district, Kota Tinggi is under the care of Kejora, a regional development agency responsible for tourism in south-eastern Johor.

“Kejora focuses on six key components for every tourism plan: governance, inclusive tourism, digitalisation, the tourist experience, sustainability and human capital.

“By constantly upgrading facilities and attractions, we aim to provide visitors with unforgettable experiences,” she said.

For instance Pantai Tanjung Balau, recognised as one of Johor’s top five tourist spots, is undergoing enhancements, she said.

Hazlina says Kota Tinggi is likely to attract nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.Hazlina says Kota Tinggi is likely to attract nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

“The fishermen’s museum showcases the area’s fishing heritage, while the geological site’s boardwalk offers insight into its prehistoric rock formations.

“As VJY2026 approaches, Kejora is identifying new tourism products and organising events like Pesta Tanjung Balau and Night or Fun Runs to stimulate economic growth and support local entrepreneurs,” she said.

Hazlina also said that community involvement was encouraged too, with initiatives to give the public hands-on experiences such as at Pulau Tanjung Surat, where visitors could plant trees and observe local traditions.

There are also eco-tourism tours offering visitors a chance to experience kampung life and watch wild buffaloes grazing near Kampung Lukut, Kota Tinggi.

“Investing in infrastructure is key to sustainable tourism growth,” said Hazlina.

“Kejora’s upgrading projects include improving boardwalks, jetties and facilities at various tourist sites.

“Collaborations with local stakeholders and participation in international events will further enhance visibility and attract visitors.

“Targeted advertising campaigns will highlight the area’s unique attractions, paired with digital channels and engaging content creation that will inspire potential visitors,” she added.

Mohd Jamal says improving maritime connectivity can make Kota Tinggi more accessible.Mohd Jamal says improving maritime connectivity can make Kota Tinggi more accessible.

Kejora’s long-term goals, Hazlina said, included the continuous improvement of destination competitiveness through infrastructure enhancement and embracing digital technology.

“We plan to identify new tourism spots, such as war memorials, to cater to evolving visitor interests while prioritising collaboration with other sectors to ensure sustainable tourism development,” she said.

Greater Desaru Tourism Association chairman Col (Rtd) Mohd Jamal Salleh anticipates VJY2026 will turn Kota Tinggi into a leading tourism product.

By making the destination more appealing and easier to access, Kota Tinggi would be able to attract a wider range of visitors, he said.

“One major initiative focuses on enhancing maritime connectivity by increasing the frequency and accessibility of ferry services to and from Kota Tinggi.

“This improvement not only makes travel smoother and more enjoyable but also offers tourists a different way to reach the destination.

Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast offers wholesome activities for families.Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast offers wholesome activities for families.

“By diversifying travel options, especially with the reopening of the Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal (TFTB) connecting Johor to Batam in Indonesia and Singapore, Kota Tinggi becomes more accessible and will serve as a regional gateway for cultural exchange and economic collaboration,” he highlighted.

Mohd Jamal, who is also the Southern Reef Sdn Bhd managing director, said the company took over the TFTB a year ago despite post-Covid-19 challenges.

“We have successfully upgraded facilities and management. We are ready to launch seamless ferry services connecting Batam in Indonesia and Singapore to Tanjung Belungkor.

“This initiative not only improves regional connectivity but also boosts tourism in Pengerang, particularly in Desaru.

“To make transportation more convenient for tourists, dedicated coach services, particularly from Singapore to Desaru, have been introduced.

A tourist visiting the Tanjung Balau Geological site boardwalk that offers insight into its prehistoric rock formations.A tourist visiting the Tanjung Balau Geological site boardwalk that offers insight into its prehistoric rock formations.

“These services aim to provide a hassle-free journey from a major international gateway, catering to diverse traveller preferences and enhancing Kota Tinggi’s accessibility,” he said.

He added that the ferry services would start in March.

Mohd Jamal lauded the Johor government’s efforts to improve road connectivity, which included widening the Senai Desaru Expressway, to accommodate the expected tourist increase during VJY2026.

“A wider and more efficient expressway not only reduces travel time but also ensures safety and comfort for road travellers, contributing to a positive tourism experience in Kota Tinggi,” he said.

Tourism stakeholders are also collaborating with government agencies, businesses and community groups to ensure a successful VJY2026, he noted.

“This includes establishing Tourism Information Centres in strategic locations and increasing car rental services to provide visitors with essential information and flexible travel options, promoting economic growth and community engagement.

“There are exciting events planned as well for VJY2026 in Kota Tinggi, which include triathlons, Bike Week and food festivals.

“These events offer opportunities for sports enthusiasts, nature lovers and foodies to experience Kota Tinggi’s beauty, culture and cuisine, enhancing the overall tourist experience and leaving a lasting impression on visitors,” said Mohd Jamal.

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