Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry in Johor has seen an adverse impact after 13 hotels in Johor were forced to shut down due to low occupancy rate.

This was announced by Johor State Tourism, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi on Tuesday (1 Dec), who stated that the situation has deteriorated with the closure of Malaysia-Singapore border beyond the implementation of Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO), as cited by Bernama.

According to Datuk Onn Hafiz, the average occupancy rate in Johor hotels declined to 27.66 per cent in August this year, compared to 57.3 per cent in 2019.

He added that the border closure also resulted in the loss of income for tourist guides in Johor as well as the decrease of visitors in theme parks and shopping malls.

Datuk Onn Hafiz continued, “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.”

He went on to say that the state government had introduced several initiatives under the Johor Economic Stimulus Package 2020 to ensure that the state tourism sector was able to survive and remain viable in the future.

The initiatives include a one-off handout of RM1,000 (S$328) to registered tourist guides, exemption of payment for business licenses and entertainment duties, RM2,000 (S$656) cash handout to 586 tour agency companies, as well as allocation of RM320,000 (S$105,021) for some 16 tourism states and district associations.

Johor state govt actively seeks to table M’sia-S’pore reopening border to federal govt

It was earlier reported that the Johor state government has been actively seeking to table a plan to expedite the reopening of its borders with Singapore to the Malaysian federal government.

Bernama reported Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad as saying on 11 October that the plan will “not only touch on the needs to reopen the border”, but will also focus on Malaysians working in Singapore “and the effects of investment in Johor as well as those intending to enter [to invest] in Johor”.

He noted that the plan will be tabled to the Economic Action Council on 19 October.

“We need to explain why the measure (border reopening) was necessary as we cannot continue to be in this situation as many of our people are affected similarly the business sector as well,” the Chief Minister said.

Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) were discussed earlier in a historic meeting between Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan at the midway point of the Johor Causeway.

With the implementation of RGL scheme, AirAsia has resumed its Kuala Lumpur to Singapore flights on 17 August, while the Johor Public Transport Corporation has also arranged shuttle bus service for the cross-border travellers without possession of a private vehicle.

Also, under the scheme, the travellers are allowed to serve a 7-day Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) at their place of residence excluding those from Sabah who are required to serve a 14-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities.

However, given the recent sharp rise of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia, Singapore’s Ministry of Health on 20 November had announced that starting from 23 Nov, all travellers who have a travel history in the past 14 days to Malaysia are required to serve a 14-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities.

As of Tuesday, Malaysia has confirmed 1,472 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total toll to 67,169 cases.

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