Gridlock causes drop in S’pore visitors


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 06 Apr 2019

Rising above: Muhammad Bakhtiar (second from right) visiting ‘The Top’ stall as MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang looks on in Penang. — Bernama

GEORGE TOWN: Congestion at the Causeway checkpoints may be the reason that saw a drop in Singapo­rean tourists visiting Malaysia.

Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said the number of Singapo­rean tourist arrivals in Malaysia dropped to 10.2 million last year from 12 million in 2017.

“The gridlock at Singapore’s Customs, Immigration and Quaran­tine (CIQ) complex often sees people waiting for hours just to pass through the checkpoints.

“The Singapore CIQ was built more for cargo. Moving passengers through the checkpoint is a major issue,” he said after opening the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Fair Penang 2019 at Setia SPICE here yesterday.

The Johor Causeway, which is about 1.06km in length, was completed in 1932 and links Johor Baru to Woodlands on the other side of the Johor Strait.

Frequent users of the Causeway would find the task of passing through the land link daunting, especially during school holidays.

The matter was further compounded as it was earlier reported that foreign moto­rists are reminded to check any outstanding fines for vehicle-related offences and pay up, or they would be denied entry into Singapore.

Muhammad Bakhtiar said traffic congestion at checkpoints were rep­orted lately due to school holidays.

He said there were also issues where those who had not settled their fines for traffic offences could not leave the island state.

“The drop could also be that Singapore Airlines and other travel agents have been promoting other destinations aggressively.

“We have to accept the fact that all our neighbours are promoting their countries through advertisements and promotions.

“We have to fight the market. Even Brunei which never promoted tourism is doing it now because of the dip in oil price,” he said.

Muhammad Bakhtiar said his ministry was also in talks with the Home Ministry on the speedy issuance of visa on arrival in order to bring in more tourists at the Johor CIQ.

On the exemption of visa for Chinese tourists, Muhammad Bakh­tiar clarified that there was never an exemption, but waiver on visa fee for e-visa applications.

“We exempted the visa fees but other processing charges still apply,” he said.

Air tickets worth RM35mil are up for grabs during the three-day fair which ends tomorrow.

The 10am to 9pm daily event features 42 travel and tour agencies, five state tourism offices, two national tourism organisations, operators of 16 hotels, resorts and theme parks as well as two airlines.

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