Senai Airport seeks to be southern hub

By Chuah Bee Kim

JOHOR BARU - The Johor government is in talks with airline companies to introduce international flights from Senai Airport next year to cater to an expected increase in tourist arrivals, following the opening of a theme park in Iskandar Malaysia.

State Tourism and Domestic Trade Committee chairman Hoo Seong Chang said the number of tourist arrivals was projected to increase two-fold with the opening of the Legoland theme park.

Touted as the first international theme park in the country, Hoo said the development was expected to draw between one and two million visitors a year, with those from across the Causeway expected to double.

"Moreover, with the opening of the Johor Premium Outlet in Kulai in November, the state will see a boost in tourist arrivals.

"The state government has started organising familiarisation trips for foreign tour operators and media groups to Johor.

"We, therefore, want airline companies to be prepared for the influx of tourists," he said, adding that the state government is targeting groups from Indonesia, China and Thailand.

Hoo said Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, which is keen to make Senai Airport its southern hub, was planning to start flights from China and Bangkok next year.

"The state government, through Tourism Malaysia Johor, is also planning to organise familiarisation trips for tour operators and media representatives from Europe, but the expenses for this group will be much higher," he said after flagging off the Explore Johor Treasure Hunt 2011 at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre here yesterday.

The event, jointly organised by Johor Corporation, the Tourism Ministry and Tourism Malaysia Johor, saw the participation of 50 cars, each with four participants, which will head to Kota Tinggi, Tanjung Leman jetty and Pulau Sibu.

Johor recorded 16 million tourist arrivals via its various entry points last year.

Of this, 1.7 million were tourists from the state.