Johor F&B sector suffers as Singapore tourists stay away

Many Singaporeans are put off by the long queues at Malaysia's immigration checkpoints. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

JOHOR BARU - Johor's food and beverage (F&B) industry has 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, news portal The Malaysian Insight reported on Tuesday (April 2).

It said Singaporeans made 10.62 million trips to Malaysia last year, a drop of 14.7 per cent compared with 2017.

The plunge caused the country to miss its target of 26.4 million tourist arrivals for 2018. It recorded only 25.83 million visitors.

Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors' General Association president Ho Su Mong said its Johor-based members lamented that their operations have been affected due to the decline in Singaporean tourists.

To make matters worse, many Singaporeans are put off by the long queues at Malaysia's immigration checkpoints.

As a result, Johor businesses have decreased by as much as 30 per cent, Mr Ho told the news site.

"Johor's tourism industry thrives on visitors from Singapore. This has also impacted the services industry in a big way.

"Besides the overcrowded checkpoints and long waiting hours, the ongoing tensions between the two countries also have an effect. Many choose not to come here because of problems between the countries," he said.

Mr Ho was referring to the ongoing airspace and maritime border dispute between the two countries, as well as Putrajaya's call for Singapore to pay more for the raw water it buys from Johor.

Echoing Mr Ho's views, Federation of Hawkers and Petty Traders' Association Malaysia president Yow Boon Chuan said hawkers in the southern Malaysian state also complained that their businesses have suffered since early this year.

"Business has been bleak since Chinese New Year because of decreasing tourist numbers and the economic downturn," he was quoted as saying.

Hawkers who ply their trade at the state's numerous night markets depend on tourists to keep their operations afloat as tourists constitute about 30 per cent of their income.

Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association president Albert Tan Sam Soon said the decline in Singaporean tourist arrivals in Johor can also be attributed to low airfares, which allows them to opt for other destinations such as Penang, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Tourism Malaysia director-general Musa Yusof previously said the declining number of tourist arrivals from Singapore could be due to the gridlock on the Causeway as well as Singaporeans' increasing preference for "new and different experiences".

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