A Tourism Goldmine27 July 2012, By iProperty.com- Malaysia
With the rise of Iskandar Malaysia, Johor is set to become one of Malaysia’s largest tourism destinations, with over a million local and foreign visitors expected to visit the state within the next two years. In this month’s Area Focus, we take a look at the pulls and draws for tourists to the state and new developments for tourism in Johor.
Johor has always been popular with tourists as it is one of Malaysia’s more urbanised and developed states. According to last year’s travel statistics, the five most popular tourist haunts there are Tebrau, Gunung Ledang, Danga Bay, Plaza Angsana and Desaru. It is no surprise that most of the places in that list are beachside resorts judging from the fact that Johor is surrounded by the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.
The southern state benefits from its proximity to Singapore and the Changi Airport, and sees an influx of international visitors from the neighbouring country and beyond. However, with the rise of Iskandar Malaysia as Johor’s socio-cultural and economic redevelopment centre, visitors will soon be drawn to Johor solely for what it has to offer, instead of being just a stopover between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
It has been reported in the press recently that Tan Sri Vincent Tan of Berjaya Group, is looking towards redeveloping a waterfront city in Johor, a project that was previously abandoned in 2010. Dubbed Lido Boulevard, the RM4 billion integrated beachfront development in Johor Bahru will encompass 122 acres, comprising luxury condominiums, waterfront office suites, a hotel, a cultural centre, a green lung and a shopping mall.
What is interesting to note about this particular project is that this joint-venture between Central Malaysian Properties Sdn Bhd (CMP), of which Tan is a stakeholder, and Johor State Secretary Incorporated is set to be one of the biggest privately financed initiatives in the Iskandar Development Region in Johor. This alone is proof enough that the Iskandar Malaysia project is placing vital interest and making tourism one of its main sectors.
Malaysia’s theme park and amusement capital
Malaysia’s southern tip will see the opening of a plethora of theme parks within the next two years. The highlight of the lot is definitely the Legoland theme park, which is set to open doors in September this year. Tickets for the theme park are being sold like hot cakes, and the attraction is expected to welcome a million visitors within the first year of its inception, with hotels and F&B plus retail outlets within the Legoland borders.
Echoing this trend is the Puteri Harbour marina and waterfront development, which is set to house three major amusement parks by the end of the year, namely, Hello Kitty Town, Little Big Club and a Lat-themed park. Developed by Themed Attractions and Resorts (TAR) of Khazanah Nasional Bhd, these child-centric theme parks are targeting schools and educational institutions. Khazanah Nasional will also be launching two sea-themed parks in Desaru, called Ocean Splash and Ocean Quest, by 2014.
The RM22-billion Mersing Laguna is expected to be a major tourist attraction, splashing some colour on the sleepy town of Mersing and creating a modern seafront paradise with 22 hotels, a water theme park, a polo field, marinas and plenty of shopping areas. It has been billed as the Bali-beater, and is expected to rope in 1.2 million visitors by 2021.
Tunku Ahmad Burhanuddin, CEO of TAR, has been quoted as saying, "The whole idea (of developing Johor) is to increase stays and spend to a more respectable level from now on." He added that the company hopes to see tourists stay longer and spend 25% more. Malaysia, on the whole, loses out to Singapore and Thailand when it comes to tourists’ average stay and spend.
In an interview with a local newspaper, he said, "Within the next five years, we would have made some kind of mark. Once we have that, the attraction of that becomes much more. We are now starting from ground zero. Once we get more people to come, there will be more attractions and products."
An oasis of modern lifestyle and travel concepts
The retail and commercial segment has also contributed to the increase of tourist arrivals in the state, with the development of the Johor Premium Outlets retail centre. Comprising high-end branded retail outlets such as Prada, Gucci and the likes, the shopping city has surpassed its projected figure in terms of tourist arrivals. Now, two other Premium Outlets are being planned for Malacca and Sepang to replicate the success of the Johor venture.
According to a press report, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, the Tourism Minister, said, “In 2011, 30% of tourism expenditure was channelled to shopping, which is an increase of 3% from the previous year.
We expect this number to continue to increase and we have projected that the expenditure for shopping to increase to 38% by 2020.”
The Johor hotel industry is set to experience a boom, with the opening of some 40 new hotels in the state by 2025, according to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH). The association projected that 2000 additional rooms have been made available this year, while another 3000 rooms are slated to enter the market in 2014, to match its status as the theme park and amusement capital of the country.
With all of these in store for the tourism sector, the number of visitors coming into Johor will definitely see an exponential growth in the near future. It may soon become the nation’s number one stop for travellers coming into the region, which will contribute towards building a healthier socio-economic status for the nation as a whole. Johor, once overlooked, is set to shine on the world tourism stage.