South Korean visitors in China surge 909% year-on-year in January as inbound tourism rebounds
Published: Apr 09, 2024 11:55 PM


South Korean tourist arrivals in China rose more than nine times year-on-year in January, data released by the South Korean authorities showed, indicating a clear recovery in inbound tourism in the post-pandemic era, according to media reports.

Experts said that multiple factors are driving the growth, including China's enhancement of tourism promotion, and they predict that international arrivals, including from South Korea, will rise.

Since the end of the pandemic, South Korea's overseas travel has gradually recovered. In January, 142,000 South Korean citizens visited China, a surge of 908.7 percent year-on-year, with a 9.3 percent increase month-on-month, reported on Tuesday, citing data from South Korean Ministry of Justice.

The main reason for the substantial rise was that in the same month last year, China had just adjusted its inbound tourism policy and there were relatively few tourist groups as a result, Song Hyun Taek, director of the China division at Modetour Network Inc, a South Korean travel agency, told the Global Times.

The situation quickly changed, and starting from April 2023, the number of South Korean tour groups visiting China began to increase rapidly and has been continuously rising ever since, Song said.

The rebound of South Korean travelers is an epitome of China's inbound tourism recovery. China's inbound tourism has resumed in an orderly manner as reflected in the booming trend at several major tourism attractions in the country. 

For example, from January 1 to February 27, Zhangjiajie, a popular destination in Central China's Hunan Province, received 98,462 inbound tourists, up 34 times compared with 2023, according to

Many South Korean travel agencies have introduced tailored tourism products for trips to China, with major airlines expanding routes to and from China.

For example, Korean Air is set to resume flights from Incheon to Zhangjiajie and Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province by the end of April, while Jeju Air has announced plans to resume flights from Incheon to Shijiazhuang, North China's Hebei Province this summer.

The downgrade of the pandemic response encourages South Korean travelers to go abroad. Geographical proximity also plays a significant role, which makes traveling relatively cost-effective, Zhang Huizhi, vice dean of the Northeast Asian Studies College at Jilin University, told the Global Times.

China's recent enhancements of tourism promotion, including visa-free policies for certain countries, have been instrumental in drawing foreign tourists to the country, said Zhang.

Places like Zhangjiajie are among the most popular group tour destinations, according to statistics from HanaTour, a South Korean travel agency. Beijing, Hong Kong and Macao are also among the top popular destinations.

In addition to the appeal of natural scenery, there are several main reasons why South Korean tourists favor Zhangjiajie. These include the influence of movies and TV dramas, the international standard of tourism facilities such as road signs in the Korean language, as well as the availability of Korean-speaking tour guides, an employee with the China Tourism Office in Seoul told the Global Times.

The China Tourism Academy predicts that the foreign inbound tourism market is expected to recover to 50 percent of 2019 this year.

Global Times