Monday, 15 October 2012


Tourist arrivals in Johor are expected to surge to unprecedented levels following newly-developed tourism products in Iskandar Malaysia that are family-oriented and suitable for all ages, says the Director of Johor Tourism Department, Md Za'nal Misran.

"Iskandar Malaysia is equipped with infrastructure and facilities that enable the state's tourism industry to comprehensively provide family tourism, edu-tourism and health tourism within a single location," he said in an interview.

"Johor tourism has (in the past) been very much dependent on coastal and island tourism, eco-tourism as well as its culture and heritage. We now have Iskandar Malaysia transforming the tourism industry in Johor with its family entertainment concept and high value products," he added.

Za'nal said with the opening of international theme parks such as Legoland Malaysia and upscale shopping complexes like Johor Premium Outlets, Iskandar Malaysia has attracted droves of local and foreign tourists to the southern part of Johor.

"The Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park featuring entertainment characters such as Hello Kitty, Barney and LAT's Place theme restaurant will be operational before year end. These will add to the theme attractions in Iskandar Malaysia and see more families coming here," he disclosed.

The 76-acre Legoland Malaysia, which opened to more than 10,000 visitors on Sept 15, will open its Legoland Water Park in the second half of 2013 followed by Legoland Hotel Park in 2014.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd is the prime mover of Iskandar Malaysia, which is targeted to secure cumulative investment of RM383 billion, over a 20-year period until 2025.

The southern development corridor has received cumulative investment commitment of RM95.45 billion between 2006 and June 2012, with the figure expected to hit RM100 billion by year end.

Expressing optimism on tourist arrivals to Johor, Za'nal said the numbers would surge this year, thanks to Iskandar Malaysia, and noted that the state has been recording a steady increase in tourists from about 3.5 million in 2009 to 3.6 million and 3.7 million respectively in 2010 and 2011.

The number of visitors to Johor rose by 22 per cent to 10.31 million in the January-June 2012 period from 8.28 million in the same period last year.

Za'nal said the positive effects of the increased visitor arrivals has resulted in greater business and job opportunities, thus making Johor better off economically.

In addition, he said Iskandar Malaysia also promoted educational and learning experience through its theme park attractions, adding that they help to drive family tourism and complement other projects.

They include spurring edu-tourism through various educational institutions in Iskandar Malaysia that cater to students of different age groups. For instance, Marlborough College Malaysia and Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia have built the momentum to attract students from various parts of Malaysia and neighbouring countries.

"There will be several more notable foreign universities coming to Iskandar Malaysia. As such, it will be cheaper for foreign students to study in EduCity than to go to a far-away country since the cost of living is much lower here," said Za'nal.

EduCity is also home to institutions such as the University of Southampton Malaysia, University of Reading Malaysia, Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology, Raffles University Iskandar and Singapore Management Development Institute which are opening in the next year or two.

To complement the students' needs, EduCity will also have an international students village, a stadium and sports complex.

On health tourism, Za'nal said the opening of the 82-bed Columbia Asia Hospital in Nusajaya coupled with several more specialist hospitals being developed at the Afiat Healthpark could help promote Iskandar Malaysia as a world class healthcare centre for foreign and local patients.

The 300-bed Gleneagles Medini Hospital together with a 150-suite medical office block is expected to be opened by 2015. To be built in phases, the hospital will also have a rehabilitation centre, nursing home and hospital residency.

Meanwhile, the managing director of SN Vacation Sdn Bhd, Sharifah Nur'aini Al-Edros, said travel agencies were now customising their travel packages to include Legoland Malaysia, noting that theme park attractions and the completed development in the Kota Iskandar state administrative centre would also help boost tourism in Johor.

She felt that they can now market packages at overseas travel fairs to showcase international-class attractions like Legoland Malaysia and the Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park featuring Hello Kitty.

Other than theme parks, Sharifah Nur'aini said this was also a good time to promote Johor's rich culture and traditional cuisine such as laksa Johor, mee rebus and otak-otak.

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