New king heralds renewed tourism interest in Johor

Johor is attracting heightened tourism interest since the crowning of its sultan as Malaysia’s new king, and being named the host city for the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in 2025.

Johor’s sultan Ibrahim Iskandar was sworn in as the new Malaysian king on January 31 and now holds the title of Yang di-Pertuan Agong. The sultan, of British-Malay descent, will reign for the next five years, and many in the tourism industry are expecting renewed interest in Malaysia and Johor with his appointment.

Many in the tourism industry are expecting renewed interest in Malaysia and Johor with the new king’s appointment

The king has extensive business interests and, no doubt, aims to see them prosper. He actively supported the recent establishment of the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone and is on record to rekindle interest in the stalled high-speed railway (HSR) between the two countries.

The Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS Link) is currently under construction with a completion date of late 2026. Meanwhile, the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express has recommenced services that will introduce Johor to high-end travellers, some of whom could also choose to holiday in Johor’s high-end resorts, such as those at the integrated tourism development at Desaru Coast.

For ATF 2025, Johor will be hosting the event next year. While the venues for the meetings and the travel exchange have yet to be finalised, general manager of Doubletree by Hilton Johor Bahru, Andreas Justkowiak, said: “We are excited with the outlook for tourism in Malaysia, especially with hosting ATF 2025 and Visit Malaysia Year 2026. In Johor, we are excited about the launch of the highly anticipated RTS Link, serving 10,000 passengers per hour each way.”

Chris Loo, managing director of Enjoy Holiday Tour, said: “The royal presence should lead to a surge in visitors eager to explore Johor’s cultural heritage and partake in related events associated with the new monarch, thereby positively impacting the state’s tourism industry.”

Arokia Das Anthony, executive director, The Essence of Asia Tours & Travel, shared that his company is coming up with new itineraries to include a photo stop of the royal palace in Johor as there is interest from the Indian market.

Christian Gerart, general manager of Anantara Desaru Coast, pointed out that the king is very progressive and cares deeply about development, and he is optimistic that investments will flow into Johor.

He said: “In anticipation of robust growth in Johor, we have just launched our three-bedroom residence after the success of our beach residence, and this latest package includes breakfast, spa, minibar and airport transfers. Being a part of the Anantara branding, sustainability is very important, and we support Rewild Desaru, a fund for establishing green corridors to ensure safe migration of animals within Desaru, and have developed guest-participation programmes.”

Many expect the new king to take an active, hands-on role in the nation’s governance. He has been quoted as saying that the economy must recover and Malaysia’s prosperity must be prioritised.

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