North Korea tourism set to surge after top leader’s visit

By Zhang Hongpei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/19 22:18:41

NK tourism set to surge after top leader’s visit

Commuters make their way through the newly renovated Kaeson subway station in Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, on Monday. Photo: AFP

More foreign tourists, mostly from China, have been setting foot in North Korea since last year as the country opens up, and the trend is set to continue, industry representatives and analysts told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The first half of this year saw a boom of Chinese tourists asking about travel to North Korea and the number of actual trips also surged, industry insiders said.

"To my knowledge, you have to book train tickets or flights one month in advance to secure a seat," said Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Research Center at Yanbian University in Northeast China's Jilin Province.

"The momentum of traveling to North Korea is now very strong and the country needs to enhance its reception capability to serve tourists," Jin told the Global Times Wednesday.

More people want to visit North Korea than can be accommodated, said Che Yinghe, the founder of the INDPRK travel agency.

A white-collar worker based in Beijing surnamed Huang visited North Korea over this May Day holidays with her parents, who wanted to evoke the feeling of China's 1960s and 1970s. They departed from Dandong, Northeast China's Liaoning Province and took the train to North Korea. 

Huang told the Global Times on Wednesday that "Too many tourists are signing up for trips to North Korea so that a limit was set: 500 people are allowed to enter North Korea from the port city per day.

"According to our tour guide, nearly 40 people registered for our group trip but half were cut due to the flow limit," she said.

"I was at the entry-exit hall of Dandong three years ago and there were few people leaving for North Korea even during the weeklong National Day holidays, which begin in China on October 1. But this May Day, there were big crowds, at least ten times the number three years ago," she added.

The Global Times reported in March that North Korea would restrict the number of foreign visitors to 1,000 per day starting March 18. But the North Korean government has yet to officially announce the notice.

According to Che, the maximum of foreign tourists that North Korea can receive per day is 1,800 to 2,000. The actual number peaked around July and August 2018.

Some 100,000 people visit North Korea each year, and 80 percent come from China. 

Wang, an employee of Beijing Youth Travel Service Co, told the Global Times that a majority of Chinese tourists who want to go to North Korea are elderly people who are nostalgic for the revolutionary era.

The entry-exit administration of Dandong did not reply to questions from the Global Times as of press time.

Che told the Global Times on Wednesday that there's been an obvious change in the past two years: North Korean travel agencies are taking the initiative to attract tourists.

"Dandong abounds with travel agencies providing trips to North Korea. Booking made elsewhere in China eventually are fulfilled via Dandong, which can directly communicate with North Korean agencies," Che said.

"Since last year, many North Korean companies have been actively seeking resources across China in hopes of cooperation deals, and that trend is picking up," he noted. Local companies are betting on the country's further opening up and integration with the world.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to North Korea is bound to usher in a new chapter for the North Korean tourism market, said Che.

Xi is scheduled to visit North Korea on Thursday and Friday.

From her experience, Huang felt the strengthening eagerness of North Korea's move to put priority on its economic development. "The pace won't be too fast, but if the country can stick to its path, which is focused on economic development, the prospects will be bright."

Newspaper headline: NK tourism set to surge after top leader’s visit


blog comments powered by Disqus