Johor is set to get its first direct flights from South Korea when Jin Air commences twice weekly Incheon-Johor Bahru services on January 2, 2018, prompting new tourism initiatives and partnerships in the Malaysian state to better cater to the market.
The flights are expected to boost South Korean tourist arrivals into Malaysia, which dipped 5.7 per cent to 189,002 for the first five months of the year. From January to July 2017, a total of 72,000 tourists from South Korea visited Johor.
To ensure the flights get sustained interest, an MoU was recently signed between the airline, Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) and Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA).
Uzaidi Udanis, MITA president, shared that the association will work with Jin Air, Tourism Johor, Tourism Malaysia, hotels in Johor and local transportation companies to organise a fam trip for South Korean outbound agents in conjunction with the inaugural flight.
Uzaidi shared: “The fam trip will include a product presentation on Johor as well as a brainstorming session with South Korean agents for Malaysian inbound agents to (gain) a better understanding of the South Korean market.
For now, there is an awareness that South Koreans enjoy golfing, which the state, with its over 20 golf courses, could provide. But beyond that, Uzaidi said there is still much to learn about the market. “We need more information, such as who are the golfers? Are they corporate clients, millennials?”
MITA currently intends to coordinate with inbound members in Johor to come up with packages, which will include golf rounds and one-week elementary English courses for adults and children.
Another challenge is the lack of Korean speaking guides in Johor. To tackle this problem, Uzaidi said Jin Air has agreed to provide complimentary airfares to tour leaders from South Korea for confirmed tour packages of at least 10 people, while MITA will work with the hoteliers in Johor to provide free accommodation.
This would be a win-win arrangment, he pointed out, with Malaysia’s inbound sector benefiting from having tour leaders act as interpreters, while outbound agents in South Korea can enjoy lower costs when selling group packages.
Johor Tourism’s domestic trade and consumerism committee chairman, Tee Siew Kiong, who witnessed the MoU signing, added that the state government will look into long-term solutions such as by providing Korean language courses for industry frontliners and offering tourism information pamphlets in the Korean language.
Meanwhile, the flights are also expected to boost visits from Johor to South Korea. MCTA Johor Chapter chairman, Kelvin Ang, told TTG Asia that its members are committed to ensure the outbound sector from Johor to Incheon has good loads. He said: “We have to fill up about 10 per cent of the aircraft which translates to around 40 seats per flight, or 80 seats per week. We don’t see this as a problem as we have 80 members in Johor selling outbound.
“For Johorians planning a holiday to Seoul, the flights offer convenience and cost savings as they need not travel to Singapore for a connection to Seoul.”