ISKANDAR PUTERI (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thirteen hotels in Johor were forced to shut down as the Covid-19 pandemic began taking its toll on the tourism industry.
Coupled with the closure of the border with Singapore, it was a double whammy for the industry players in the state.
State Tourism, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Onn Hafiz Ghazi said the state's tourism industry was significantly devastated, with hotel occupancy rate at an all-time low of 27 per cent.
"The occupancy rate dropped from 57.3 per cent last year to 27.66 per cent in August.
"The state government has been pushing for the reopening of the Malaysia-Singapore border with Putrajaya on a weekly basis, as we are well aware of its importance," he said in response to questions on the state's recovery plans for the industry.
Datuk Onn Hafiz added that the only way for the border to reopen was through the cooperation of all parties in the state and a drop in the number of Covid-19 cases in both countries.
He also noted that the state had introduced several initiatives under Johor Budget 2021 to help tourism industry players that were affected by the pandemic, which include the RM1,000 (S$330) incentive to registered tour guides in the state.
"An allocation of RM320,000 is in store for some 16 tourism state and district associations, and a RM2,000 cash handout to 586 tour agency companies.
"There is also the introduction of certification for hotels that abide by the Covid-19 standard operating procedure to increase confidence among the public to use their facilities," Mr Onn Hafiz said.
Meanwhile, the state's Health and Environment Committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said the number of patients visiting health clinics for mental issues had increased from 32 in June and 46 in July to 678 in August.
He said the big spike was due to the launch of an online mental health self-screening by the state Health Department on Aug 9, which was part of an initiative to address mental health issues.