China eases ban on group tours to South Korea: Implications for tourism industry?

With a summit between the leaders of South
Korea and China just around the corner, there are signs diplomatic tension between the two
countries is finally dying down. The latest sign is that Chinese tourists are
now trickling back into South Korea for the first time in almost nine months. Lee Jeong-yeon has the details. On Saturday December 2nd, a group of 32 Chinese
tourists entered South Korea on a package tour. Not normally remarkable except that it was
the first Chinese tour group to come to the country in almost nine months,… signaling
an easing of diplomatic tensions between South Korea and China over the deployment of the
U.S. missile defense system THAAD back in March. (Korean)
“From March we had zero package tour requests from China. Since about a week ago, we’ve got a couple
of requests but not many.” The number of Chinese tourists dropped some
61-percent on-year, which is estimated to have cost the South Korean economy some 6-point-5
billion U.S. dollars in lost revenue. That’s a figure based on the average spending
of Chinese visitors in 2016. (stand-up)
While many saw the 9-month gap in group tour packages from China as a damage to the Korean
tourism sector, some industry experts actually saw it as a chance for positive change. (Korean)
“Since 2013, China had outpaced Japan to become the main source of visitors to South Korea. But most of them were on what we call ‘package
dumping tours,’ which are shallow, low-quality tours at low prices.” The expert added that this year’s lull has
served as a time for the tourism industry overall to reflect. (Korean)
“We discovered a new pattern for catering to individual tourists from the existing one
that relied heavily on package tours. It is time for a change in paradigm.” China’s lifting of its ban on tours to South
Korea is so far only partial. Package tours can only be bought over the
counter in Beijing and Shandong Province. And customers cannot buy any travel-related
products from Lotte Group, the company that provided the land in South Korea for the missile
system. The Korea Tourism Organization agrees that
it’s too soon to say this partial resumption of tourism will have much impact, and that
South Korea will have to continue to find new ways to reduce its reliance on Chinese
visitors. Lee Jeong-yeon, Arirang News.

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