Johor may axe two mega tourism projects worth over $1b

JOHOR BARU • The Johor state government may cancel two mega tourism projects worth more than RM3 billion (S$1 billion), say sources close to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.

The first project, valued at RM2.7 billion, is an eco-entertainment park near the Yayasan Pelajaran Johor campus in Kota Tinggi.

The second project was supposed to be the world's first science fiction theme park called Sci-Fi Universe costing RM400 million.

The projects were announced by former menteri besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin before the 14th General Election as part of the state's Barisan Nasional election manifesto.

A third project valued at RM4.5 billion - the Desaru Coast integrated tourist centre, which would see many world-class hotels and resorts, and house the largest wave pool in South-east Asia - is expected to be left alone, as the project is almost complete and is expected to be operational next month.

When contacted, the Johor state minister in charge of women development and tourism, Ms Liow Cai Tung, said she would meet representatives of the project in Desaru next week to get more details.

She said a review of this new tourist attraction was needed in an effort to focus on the state's existing local attractions.

"Those already built will be unaffected, but we will review the others and new proposals," she added.

The PH federal government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made cost-cutting a priority in his new administration to reduce federal debts at RM1 trillion.

The Johor projects had also faced complaints by certain parties urging the state to review applications for new tourism mega projects which do not reflect the values of Johoreans or Malaysians.

Ms Liow added that the local tourist spots she believed had a lot of untapped potential were Muar, Kukup, Batu Pahat and Kluang.

Johor is home to at least 10 theme parks, earning it the accolade as the Malaysian state with the most number of such parks. The theme parks set up in recent years include Legoland Malaysia, Thomas Town-Puteri Harbour, Angry Birds Activity Park and Hello Kitty Town.

Ms Liow is expected to reveal more details on the direction of the state's tourism industry after receiving a report from the Johor Tourism Department today.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2018, with the headline 'Johor may axe two mega tourism projects worth over $1b'. Print Edition | Subscribe