ISKANDAR PUTERI: Thirteen hotels in Johor were forced to shut down as the Covid-19 pandemic began taking its toll on the tourism industry.
Coupled with the closure of the border with Singapore, it was a double whammy for the industry players in the state.
State Tourism, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi said the tourism industry in the state was significantly devastated with hotel occupancy rate at an all-time low of 27%.
“The occupancy rate dropped from 57.3% last year to 27.66% in August.
“The state government has been pushing for the reopening of the Malaysia-Singapore border with Putrajaya on a weekly basis as we are well aware of its importance, ” he said in response to questions on the state’s recovery plans for the industry.
Onn Hafiz added that the only way for the border to reopen was through the co-operation of all parties in the state and a drop in the number of Covid-19 cases in both countries.
He also noted that the state had introduced several initiatives under Johor Budget 2021 to help tourism industry players who were affected by the pandemic which include the RM1,000 incentive to registered tour guides in the state.
“An allocation of RM320,000 is in store for some 16 tourism state and district associations and RM2,000 cash handout to 586 tour agency companies.
“There is also the introduction of certification for hotels that abide by the Covid-19 standard operating procedure to increase confidence among the public to use their facilities, ” Onn Hafiz said.
Meanwhile, state Health and Environment Committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said the number of patients visiting health clinics for mental issues had increased from 32 in June and 46 in July to 678 in August.
He said the big spike was due to the launch of an online self-screening for mental health by the state Health Department on Aug 9 which was part of an initiative to address mental health issues.
“The online QR-DASS (Depression, Anxiety and Stress Score) allows those aged 16 and above to take part in the screening voluntarily and get an immediate result about their mental health status.
“If the result of the screening shows something that is abnormal, they will be encouraged to go to the health clinic for further checks.
“They will also be given a link to make an appointment at the clinics, ” he said in replying to a question from Sheikh Umar Bagharib Ali (PH-Paloh) on the measures taken to tackle mental health challenges faced by the people due to financial problems and losing their jobs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vidyananthan added that some 287,200 individuals went through the online screening in August and 7,311 in September.