by BERNAMA / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD
THE Johor State Legislative Assembly today was told that 13 hotels in the state have ceased their operations following the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country since the beginning of the year.
However, further information on the closures was not disclosed by the chairman of the Johor Tourism, Youth and Sports Committee, Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi.
He, however, divulged that the closure of the Malaysia-Singapore border and the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) since March 18 has caused the average occupancy rate in Johor hotels to decline to 27.66 per cent in August this year, compared to 57.3 per cent in 2019.
He said the situation also caused tourist guides in the state to lose their source of income and the number of visitors in theme parks and shopping malls to dwindle.
“The state government is aware of the importance of opening the Malaysia-Singapore border, especially for the tourism sector. Hence the Menteri Besar has brought this matter to Putrajaya every week, not only in the National Security Council meeting but also to the National Economic Action Council (NEAC).
“Nevertheless, we take note that for this border opening move to be successful, it needs two important things, namely the understanding and agreement between the state government, the federal government and Singapore besides taking into account the health and safety factors where the number of COVID-19 cases should be low in both countries,” said Onn Hafiz.
He said this in reply to Chen Kah Eng (PH-Stulang), Datuk Zulkurnain Kamisan (PN-Sri Medan) and Liow Cai Tung (PH-Johor Jaya) who wanted to know about the state government’s efforts in restoring the tourism sector, including assisting travel agencies affected by the pandemic.
Onn Hafiz said the Johor government had provided several initiatives to ensure that the state tourism sector was able to survive and also to enable it to remain viable in the future.
These initiatives include providing a one-off contribution of RM1,000 to registered tourist guides and the exemption of payment for business licenses and entertainment duties under the Ihsan Johor Economic Stimulus Package 2020 to assist tourism industry players, he added.
He said apart from that, engagement sessions had been held with industry players and efforts had also been made to introduce the Johor Majestic Programme, establish Iskandar Puteri Tourism Action Council and Johor Medical Tourism Committee.
“For next year, the state government will implement initiatives such as reviewing the Johor State Tourism Master Plan 2014-2023 to ensure the direction of the tourism sector can be planned in a more organised manner and in line with current trends, developing Johor Tourism Interchange (JTI) to transform the digital tourism economy and providing tourism vouchers amounting to RM1.5 million for selected tourist accommodations and shopping centres,” he added.
He said RM5 million was also allocated to develop and upgrade tourism infrastructure in the state.