Industry observers have called Johor a "potential Shenzhen in Singapore" due to its meteoric ascent as a tourist destination as new theme parks continue to reel in Singaporeans.
Speaking at a panel discussion during this year’s HICAP Update in Singapore, Charlie Chia, group CEO or property developer United Malayan Land, said: “There is a lot of cross border traffic between Singapore and Malaysia already….If you look at Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and you compare Johor and Singapore you can see a parallel model.” Singapore was Johor’s top source of international arrivals with almost 10 million visitors between January and July last year.
Highlighting the new theme parks as a major draw for tourists, Chia said: “This southern corridor of Malaysia has come alive over the past three years and it has become a new playground for tourists now. “(Tourists) are no longer just going in to Johor for a while. The trend is that they are taking overnight tours there too,” he added.
Markus Aklin, vice president, development, Onyx Hospitality Group, said: “This is a phenomenal opportunity for us as we can see that Johor Bahru has reached its critical mass now and it is time for us to be setting up shop.”
Last October, Onyx Hospitality Group announced that it had been appointed to operate a 207-room property in Iskandar Malaysia, which is slated to open in 4Q2015. Aklin said the upcoming 4.5-star Amari Johor’s room rates will “easily be half of that in Singapore” and thus provide a “very attractive value proposition”.
However, Patrick Finn, vice president, development, Hyatt International felt that the Shenzhen comparison is “far-fetched”. He said: “There is new tourism demand generated in Johor, but right now it is still primarily for the weekends especially when we look at the theme parks.”