GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia has attributed traffic congestion at the Causeway checkpoints as the reason why fewer Singaporeans are visiting the country.
Malaysia's deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said the number of tourists from Singapore has dropped to 10.2 million last year, as opposed to 12 million in 2017.
"The gridlock at Singapore's Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex often sees people waiting for hours just to pass through the checkpoints.
"The Singapore CIQ was built more for cargo. Moving passengers through the checkpoint is a major issue," he said on Friday (April 5).
Mr Muhammad Bakhtiar said traffic congestion at checkpoints were reported lately due to school holidays.
He said there were also issues where those who had not settled their fines for traffic offences could not leave the island state.
Johor's food and beverage industry claimed their businesses have been affected by a decline in tourist arrivals from Singapore due to ongoing tensions between the city state and Malaysia, as well as delays at the immigration checkpoints.
However, the Straits Times reported on Friday that the clampdown on foreign vehicles with unpaid fines has not worsened the jams at the Causeway and Tuas Checkpoint.
A mobile application, which has tracked congestion at the land checkpoints since 2016, also showed that while waiting times can still remain long, they did not change on Monday, the first day of Singapore's move to deny entry to vehicles with outstanding fines.
Singapore authorities have reminded foreign motorists since last week to pay their fines before April 1 or risk being denied entry into Singapore.
Mr Muhammad Bakhtiar said on Friday that the decrease in tourists from Singapore could also be stemmed from aggressive promotions from Singapore Arlines and other travel agents to visit other countries.
"We have to accept the fact that all our neighbours are promoting their countries through advertisements and promotions. We have to fight the market. Even Brunei which never promoted tourism is doing it now because of the dip in oil prices," he said.
As such, Mr Muhammad Bakhtiar said his ministry was also in talks with the Home Ministry on the speedy issuance of visa on arrival for other foreigners in order to bring in more tourists at the Johor CIQ.