Korea’s Tourism Industry Surges With Chinese Visitors

Chinese tourists visited Korea last year in
record numbers, according to the Korea Tourism Organization. The number of Japanese tourists, on the other
hand, took a significant hit during the same period. A myriad of economic and diplomatic factors
contribute to these contrasting trends for the nation’s tourism industry. Kim Hyunbin reports. An average of three out of 10 tourists this
year in Korea have come from China, making it the largest demographic for the country’s
tourism industry. It’s been a surging trend, according to recent
data from the Korea Tourism Organization. Over 375-thousand Chinese tourists visited
Korea in January and February. That’s a significant increase of 41 percent,
or over 100-thousands tourists, from the same period last year. Now looking at just last month, nearly 220-thousand
tourists from China visited Korea, compared to some 209-thousand from Japan. It’s the first time China has surpassed Japan
in terms of visitor numbers, as Tokyo has typically in the past outnumbered Beijing
2 to 1. Experts say Chinese tourists are choosing
Korea as their next vacation destination in favor of Japan, partly due to rising anti-Japanese
sentiment stemming from territorial disputes over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands. Likewise, heightened geopolitical tensions
between Seoul and Tokyo have also prompted Japanese tourists to look elsewhere. Rising income levels in China and interest
in overseas travel have also contributed to the influx of Chinese tourists. The culmination of these factors resulted
in a huge drop in the number of Japanese tourists this past year. Korea experienced a high of more than 320-thousands
Japanese visitors last August, around the same time President Lee Myung-bak made his
controversial trip to the disputed Dokdo Islets. From then on, it’s been a steady decline to
a yearly-low last December. It’s unlikely that Japanese tourist numbers
will return in numbers seen before anytime soon, due to North Korea’s recent threats. However, retail industry analysts predict
the booming number of Chinese tourists will be able to pick up the slack at the register
for the time being. Kim Hyunbin, Arirang News

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