Holiday bookings surge as Causeway ‘back in business’

Reports by NELSON BENJAMIN, VENESA DEVI, IYLIA MARSYA ISKANDAR and CHAN MAY THENG

JOHOR BARU: There is optimism about an increase of Singaporean visitors to Malaysia with the Causeway now back in business.

More than 1,000 international tourists are expected to arrive in Malaysia on the first day of the country’s transition to the endemic phase today.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said the arrivals will mostly be from Singapore via various international air and land entry points, with several preparations in place to welcome them.

Deputy minister Datuk Seri Dr Santhara Kumar added that while the ministry does not have a specific target for the number of visitors, it hopes that arrivals would match pre-pandemic figures in 2019.

“We are confident that with the reopening of the borders, we would see more tourists from Singapore as well as Malaysians living there returning to visit the country,” said Santhara.

“Prior to the pandemic, we received a high number of visitors. Even if we can get anywhere between 30% and 50% of the number of visitors in 2019, it will still be considered a great achievement,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tourism Johor director Suhairi Hashim said the preparation for the reopening of the borders has been ongoing since December.

“The tourism industry in Johor, government agencies and departments have made all of the necessary preparations to make sure the reopening runs smoothly,” he said.

Suhairi added that some hotels and resorts in Johor have already been fully booked.

“Many industry players have started to see a positive impact from the border reopening. We hope to see this continue and improve further in the weeks to come,” he said.

As holiday bookings surge, the players in the food business are also preparing for a busy time.

From employing more workers to increased orders for chicken, traders here are preparing for brisk business.

Restaurant owner Safwan Othman, 35, said he is planning to order an additional 30kg of chicken.

Sharing similar plans is a canteen operator at the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (KSAB), Abdul Manaf Mohammad, 44, who is hoping that he can recover at least 40% of his business.

“For the past three days, my business has been slowly picking up ever since the (KSAB) workers started to return to work. I really hope that things will return to the way they were before,” he said.

Despite the excitement, some businesses here are opting to take the “wait and see” approach, like fForeign exchange shop owner Nur Hafijah Abdul Wahab, 26.

“Of course, we are excited to be able to reopen but at the same time, I prefer to see the number of people coming in first.

“We made preparations when the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) was announced but the number of people coming through here was unfortunately not up to our expectation,” she noted.

Echoing similar sentiments was restaurant owner Tan Kim Hock, 59, who said he would stick to his current operating hours between 9am and 2pm for the time being.

“I am very happy with the reopening but I am also very careful as I do not want the extra money I spend for the preparations to go to waste,” he said.