Friday, January 19, 2007

Action plan to woo back Singaporeans

JOHOR BARU: The state has begun planning how it will woo back visitors from across the Causeway.

The tourism and hospitality sector here, which relies heavily on Singaporeans, has taken a severe hit since the floods began on Dec 19.

Occupancy rates in most major hotels have plummeted by about 30 per cent while tour agents and guides are scrambling for jobs.

Malaysian Tourist Guides Council (MTGC) president Jimmy Leong said: "Singapore tour agents have stopped selling Johor until the situation here improves."

MTGC, Tourism Malaysia and Tourism Malaysia in Singapore met recently to chart a new plan of action, he added.

One strategy is to get shopping malls here to stay open until midnight to attract Singaporeans for pre-Lunar New Year shopping.

"During the last two weekends, we expected about 120 busloads of Singaporeans to cross into Johor. But three-quarters of them cancelled.

"Some had called off the tours because the roads were cut off while many decided not to come because they were afraid they would be caught in the floods," said Leong.

"The Singapore media has been portraying Johor as being completely under water. This is, of course, not true," he said, noting that day tours within a 5km radius of here were still being offered.

Hotels here said they were hoping for a return of guests from the north and from Singapore.

Puteri Hotels Sdn Bhd director of marketing communications Yvonne Loh hopes things will pick up once the floods have subsided.

Grand Bluewave Hotel manager P.L. Kumaradas said: "Fortunately, we still have our long-term guests. But Singaporeans and those from the north are hesitant about visiting Johor Baru because of the floods."

Some of the worst hit are hotels in Desaru and resorts on the islands off Mersing, because the access roads were cut off by the flood waters.

Source : NST
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