Chinese tourism to S.Korea rebounds in June, stays short of pre-THAAD levels

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/20 21:38:39

Chinese tourism to South Korea rebounds in June

Improved diplomatic ties are encouraging growth in Chinese tourist arrivals, but the South Korean government must make more effort to repair bilateral relations, said experts, as reports show a strong rebound in Chinese visitor arrivals to South Korea in June after a huge drop in 2017.

A total of 379,891 Chinese mainland tourists visited South Korea in June, 49 percent more than in June 2017, according to data published by the Korea Tourism Organization. A spokesman for online travel platform told the Global Times that search popularity of South Korea-related tourism products in July grew 37.8 percent over June, underscoring the strong growth trend.

The growth in visitors was due to individual travelers, as big tour groups from China stopped visiting South Korea after it installed US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles in 2017, industry insiders said. A representative of Shanghai-based tourism company Lvmama told the Global Times that the company still doesn't offer group tours to South Korea.

South Korean retailers are betting on continued tourist growth, as local media reported growth in sales to Chinese tourists in 2018. Retail giants Lotte and Shinsegae are negotiating a deal with Chinese payment platforms to ease the purchasing process for Chinese visitors, according to a report by Chinese news site, which cited South Korean media.

Da Zhigang, director of the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Northeast Asian Studies, told the Global Times on Monday that better relations in Northeast Asia have fostered a friendlier climate for tourism in the area.

"Since the summit of Chinese, South Korean and Japanese leaders in Japan in May 9, there has been a consensus to advance regional integration and promote development, especially as the China-US trade war looms and protectionism advances in some areas," said Da.

"The South Korean government has also expressed its support for the Belt and Road initiative, and I believe the increase in individual travelers to South Korea is related to this friendlier climate of relations," he said.

Chinese mainland tourists amounted to 46.8 percent of total tourists in South Korea in 2016, with a total of more than 8 million visitors. However, after the THAAD crisis began in March 2017, tourist numbers decreased steeply, closing 2017 at just above 4 million.

Even with present growth trends, Chinese visitors to South Korea are still well behind pre-THAAD levels. Chinese mainland visitors to South Korea in June 2016 reached 758,534, almost double 2018 levels.

"The THAAD issue is now the biggest problem between the two countries. People in China wish that South Korea continues to show sincerity and make efforts to solve the issue," said Da.

Newspaper headline: Chinese tourism to South Korea rebounds in June


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