Inbound travel players in Malaysia saw a decline in arrivals from Singapore to Johor during the March school holidays, attributing this partly to congestion on the causeways and the lack of new products in the state.
Arokia Das Anthony, director, Luxury Tours Malaysia, said: “Travelling by road from Singapore, it takes at least two hours to clear customs and immigration during peak hours and public holidays. When traffic is this bad, there needs to be a compelling reason to travel to Johor for a holiday.
“There is also a lack of new products in the state, which is not helping tourism,” he told TTG Asia.
While acknowledging that Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark is a new attraction, he pointed out that it is an hour’s drive from Johor Baru.
“I see demand picking up once the ferry service between Tanah Merah in Singapore direct to Desaru Coast opens in 2Q2020.”
At the same time, Arokia said demand for Penang, Ipoh and Langkawi picked up during the recent Singapore school holidays. To cater to youthful preferences, the company offered experiential and soft adventure activities such as zip lining and abseiling.
Raaj Navaratnaa, general manager of Johor-based New Asia Holidays Tours & Travel, too opined that Johor lacks major new attractions to entice Singaporean visitors already familiar with the state’s offerings.
“While we saw a decline in demand for tours in Johor during the Singapore school holidays, demand for other local destinations such as the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia increased because these destinations are relatively new and unfamiliar with many Singaporeans,” he said.
“These are destinations we will be focusing on for the Singapore market who are into water-based activities, culture, nature and heritage.”
John Chan, business advisor at Isma Holidays in Johor Baru, added that the strong Singapore dollar and competition from regional destinations made it much more difficult to tap the Singapore market, especially repeat visitors to the state.
Like others TTG Asia spoke with, he said Johor could benefit from new tourism experiences to entice Singaporeans to make repeat visits to Johor.
“We saw a drop in the Singapore market during the recent school holidays as well as year-to-date. We are concentrating on domestic tourism to make up for the shortfall in the Singapore market. After promoting culture, arts, heritage and homestays to the local market, we saw a small five per cent increase during the recent March Malaysian school holidays over the same period last year.”
Tourism Malaysia’s director-general, Musa Yusof, shared recently that the NTO welcomes new ideas from the travel trade for incubation and joint development.