Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cuti-Cuti Singapura*

(Pix: Singapore's main shopping thoroughfare Orchard Road during a Christmas light-up in 2005. Source: Wikipedia). *Cuti-Cuti means holiday in Malay. The title of this post is a little play on words on Malaysia's tourism drive called Cuti-Cuti Malaysia. Singapura is, of course, the Malay name of Singapore.

Will we ever see the reversal in the flow of tourists between Singapore and Malaysia?

Traditionally, more Singaporeans visit Malaysia than vice versa due to many reasons. One reason is the mighty Singapore dollar, which stretches the spending power of Singaporeans across the causeway at the current exchange rate of more than RM2.20 for each S$1. Apart from the strong Sing dollar, many Malaysians have been deterred from shopping in Singapore over the years due to the rapid development of its own shopping landscape.

But Singapore has come up with a creative way to target visitors from its closest neighbour, with a foreign exchange angle.

According to an advertisement and news reports, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said Malaysians could enjoy selected tourist destinations in Singapore at half price between May 25 and June 30.

The selected attractions include the Singapore Zoo, Sentosa island and even a ride on the big DHL balloon in the middle of the city, according to a full-page ad placed in Malaysian newspapers over the weekend.

STB Southern Malaysia area director Alfred Poon said Malaysians who wanted to take a ride on the Singapore River, for example, would pay RM12 (S$5.30) instead of S$12, according to The Star. To qualify for the offer, Malaysians will have to produce their passports with valid embarkation cards. Malaysians can either pay discounted fares in RM or the equivalent in S$.

The trick may just work in the short term. But in the longer term, Singapore and Malaysia must make it even easier for greater cross-border movement of people in order to generate more tourist activities on both sides of the causeway.

Will Singapore scrap the vehicle entry fee for Malaysian cars entering Singapore? Will Singapore eventually allow a less restrictive and direct bus service from Senai Airport in Johor to Singapore? Will Singapore and Malaysia scrap the toll rates at the causeway and the Second Link?

Will the proposed bullet train service between the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore take off? Will the proposed MRT network in the southern Malaysian city of Johor Baru be connected to Singapore?

Will budget airlines be allowed to compete freely with Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines when the popular KL-Singapore route is liberalised next year?

Will yachts and ships be allowed to sail more freely between the two countries without being delayed by immigration checks in the middle of the seas by coast guards in patrol boats?

Apart from better infrastructure, both sides must improve immigration clearance at the causeway, the clogged artery linking Singapore and Malaysia.

And lastly, will Singapore and Malaysia jumpstart the bridge project to replace the ageing causeway?

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