Johor may axe two big tourism plans worth more than RM3 billion

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

JOHOR BARU - The state government may cancel two mega tourism projects worth more than RM3bil (S$1 billion), say sources close to the administration.

The first project, valued at RM2.7bil, is an eco-entertainment park near the Yayasan Pelajaran Johor campus in Kota Tinggi.

The second project was supposed to be the world’s first science fiction theme park called Sci-Fi Universe at a cost of RM400mil.

The projects were announced by former mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin before the 14th General Election as part of the state's Barisan Nasional election manifesto.

A third project valued at RM4.5bil - the Desaru Coast integrated tourist centre, which would see many world-class hotels and resorts and house the largest wave pool in South-East Asia - may be in the clear, as the project is almost complete and is expected to be operational next month.

When contacted, Johor Women Develop­ment and Tourism Committee chairman Liow Cai Tung said she would meet representatives of the project in Desaru next week to get more details.

She said a review of this new tourist attraction was needed in an effort to focus on the state's existing local attractions.

"Those already built will be unaffected, but we will review the others and new proposals," she added.

This follows complaints by certain parties urging the state to review applications for new tourism mega projects which do not reflect the values of Johoreans or Malaysians.

"I want to highlight our culture, local food and natural attractions such as our parks, islands and beaches. Johor is blessed with so many natural settings.

"Even the universal tourism trend is about highlighting one's local culture," Liow said, adding that the local tourist spots she believed had a lot of untapped potential were Muar, Kukup, Batu Pahat and Kluang.

Johor is home to at least 10 theme parks, earning the accolade as the state with the most number of theme parks.

Other notable theme parks set up in recent years include Legoland Malaysia, Thomas Town - Puteri Harbour, Angry Birds Activity Park and Hello Kitty Town.

Liow is expected to reveal more details on the direction of the state's tourism industry after receiving a report from the Johor Tourism Department on Wednesday.

Earlier, she was reported as saying there was "too much attention on and promotion of theme parks in Johor".

"Johor-themed products can attract a large number of tourists if marketed properly," she recently said.

In 2016, Johor targeted about 5.5 million visitors but managed to draw a total of 9.9 million visitors (comprising 7.3 million domestic visitors and 2.6 million foreign tourists).

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