JOHOR, a state in southern Malaysia linked to Singapore by causeways, has been thriving for the past decade.
The crowds who jam-pack the Causeway and Second Link on their way to Johor from Singapore on weekends and public holidays bear testimony to the fact that the state is a tourist haven.
Singaporeans, lured by the attractive currency exchange rate, will spend on shopping and hotel stays.
Tourist arrivals, mainly from China and South Korea, has been increasing over the years.
Johor has an array of hotels to suit all budgets and tastes - from luxurious five-star establishments to budget hotels and inviting resorts.
Well-known hotels in downtown Johor Baru include the Double Tree by Hilton, the Puteri Pacific, Renaissance Hotel, Mutiara Johor Baru, M Suites Johor Baru, Thistle Johor Baru, Grand Bluewave, Holiday Villa, Grand Paragon, Hotel Granada and KSL Resort.
The Pulai Springs Resort, Lotus Desaru Beach Resort and Spa, Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, Legoland Hotel, Le Grandeur Palm Resort, Tune Hotel Danga Bay are also among popular establishments for local and foreign tourists.
This long list is expected to get longer with new hotels slated for opening in Johor in the coming years.
The new additions will include the Amari, Ramada Encore Meridin and Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast.
There will also be a new big name 296-room four-star hotel that will be opened next to the Paradigm Mall Johor Baru.
Johor Chapter for the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chairman Ivan Teo, who is also the general manager of Ponderosa Golf and Country Club, said hotels in Johor enjoyed brisk business due to their proximity to Singapore and the steady influx of Malaysian and foreign travellers who came to Johor for business and pleasure.
Teo also said the association was evolving as hotels were now open to partnerships with a plethora of companies, agencies and entities to create more buzz in Johor’s tourism industry.
Citing an example, Teo said some of MAH members in Johor partnered transport operators such as the company behind Causeway Link buses, government agencies and non-governmental organisations as well as educational institutions in their effort to bring in more tourist revenue.
However, he said hoteliers in Johor faced similar challenges as in other tourism destinations in Malaysia.
Among the hot topics being discussed by hoteliers in Johor is the announcement of the new tourism tax following the passing of the Tourism Tax Bill in parliament on April 6.
“The association members support the newly imposed tourism tax but appealed for locals to be exempted. We have no issue with foreigners being taxed as they can well afford it.
“Malaysia offers one of the lowest hotel rates so the association supports the tax initiative. However, locals should be exempted from the tax,” he said.
Citing an example, Teo said companies which planned to send their staff overseas for training had to downgrade the hotel stay for their staff due to the tourism tax.
“This is sad because the safety of the staff should be a priority. Locals are already subject to the Goods and Service Tax, so the Tourism Tax will be a burden to them,” he added.
Johor Tourism, Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said last year that Johor was in need of more hotels due to the rapid growth in tourism, industries and other sectors in the state.
He said there had been 105 hotels in Johor as of April last year, of which 61 hotels, or 58 per cent, were located in Johor Baru.