Reduction in 2 million visitors from Singapore sets off alarm bells

The tourism, arts and culture ministry has proposed some measures for the home ministry on the ‘visa on arrival’ and immigration systems to smoothen the journey for tourists at the CIQ. (Reuters pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Congestion at the Causeway has caused a dip of nearly two million visitors from Singapore to the country.

Concerned over this situation, the tourism, arts and culture ministry (Motac) is working closely with the home ministry to resolve the Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) issue

Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik today said 10.2 million arrivals were recorded last year compared with 12 million in 2017, citing congestion at the Johor CIQ as one of the reasons.

“We have visited the CIQ together with home ministry officers.

“We have proposed some solutions and short-term strategies to facilitate the crowd entering Malaysia,” he told reporters after officiating the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) fair here.

He said the CIQ in Johor was actually designed more for cargo handling.

Due to the conditions set by the home ministry, visa on arrival (VOA) could only be processed at this complex.

“We have proposed some measures for the home ministry on the VOA and immigration systems to smoothen the journey for tourists at the CIQ,” he said.

Bakhtiar said his ministry is also collaborating with the home ministry to facilitate the entrance of tourists from China and India via the Electronic Travel Registration and Information (eNTRI) service.

He said currently there is no visa exemption for tourists from the two countries but the fees to apply for this eNTRI would be exempted for them until Dec 31.

Meanwhile, he said Motac is targeting for 28.1 million tourist arrivals and RM92.2 billion tourist receipts this year.

He said tourism is a key sector of the Malaysian economy, accounting for around 14% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and providing employment to 3.4 million people.

“We hope to see positive developments in all outcomes (from the efforts to promote tourism) so that the industry can continue to thrive,” he added.