Report: Businesses in Johor’s Iskandar Puteri hurting from lack of Singaporean, Chinese tourists

Legoland Malaysia has been forced to cut its capacity to 30 per cent to accommodate Covid-19 healthcare standard operating procedures. — AFP pic
Legoland Malaysia has been forced to cut its capacity to 30 per cent to accommodate Covid-19 healthcare standard operating procedures. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — Businesses in Johor’s southernmost city have seen a sharp decline in fortunes as Malaysia’s borders remain closed to international tourists especially from Singapore and China, The Sunday Times (ST) reported today.

According to the Singapore paper, revenue at malls and theme parks in Iskandar Puteri has dropped by at least 40 per cent since the two countries went into Covid-19 lockdown in March, though restrictions have since eased up with border crossings between the two countries allowed since August 17 for “essential business and official purposes”. 

Prior to Covid-19, Iskandar Puteri had been a booming township that lured many visitors from China due to its many China-backed developments.

“We have seen a 40 per cent drop in customers since Malaysia imposed the movement control order,” Nazriana Mohd Khalid, a supervisor of Ben’s Independent Grocer in the Mall on Medini, told ST.

Citing data from Tourism Malaysia, the paper said Singaporeans were the biggest spenders in Johor with RM11.56 billion forked out between January and June last year alone. 

The paper reported that Legoland Malaysia has been forced to cut its capacity to 30 per cent to accommodate Covid-19 healthcare standard operating procedures. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the attraction would usually draw 10,000 visitors a day. It is now fully reliant on domestic tourists since reopening on June 26.

ST also reported that even a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment for rent within Iskandar Puteri that previously fetched between RM120 and RM300 a night is now listed for as low as RM40 per night.

Sunway Malls and Theme Parks chief executive HC Chan, like Nazriana, revealed a drop in business of about 40 per cent since Malaysia’s movement control order (MCO) was imposed in March. 

However, ST reported that Sunway Malls and Theme Parks is planning opening a new cinema, a four-star hotel, an outdoor glamping site and an extreme sports park in Johor despite the current economic and health challenges. 

“Before the MCO, 10 per cent of our visitors were Singaporeans.  And since border controls have been implemented, these visits have been temporarily scaled back. 

“We target to have 35 per cent Singaporean visitors in the long term when normality returns,” Chan said in the report. 

ST reported a sharp drop in customers within Sunway’s Big Box Retail Park, a 7.7 million square feet open-air mall, located just minutes away from the Tuas Second Link. 

The paper said businesses in Skudai, another township just a 20-minute drive away from the border, has been hurt from the lack of foreign tourists, listing massage parlours struggling to make ends meet, while some others have been forced to close. 

“We need that bridge open. The local businesses here are very dependent on Singaporeans coming over,” said Joanne Lee, 38, a local resident and business owner. 

Travel between Malaysia and Singapore under the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) began from August 17.

Under RGL, travel between the two South-east Asian countries is allowed for “essential business and official purposes” up to a maximum of 14 days’ stay.

The PCA, which strictly covers land crossings, permits Malaysia and Singapore residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.

After at least 90 days in their country of work, they may return to their home country for short-term home leave, and thereafter may re-enter their country of work to continue work for at least another 90 days.

Malaysian citizens and Singapore permanent residents with work passes entering the republic under the PCA must serve a stay-home notice of at least seven days.

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