China banned group tours to Korea. Part of much visible economic retaliation against Seoul’s decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system. Beijing’s action hit the local tourism industry hard. However, Korea has a knack for bouncing back and finding another way in such trying times.
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Last year, Chinese tourists accounted for nearly 50-percent of the 17-million tourists that visited Korea. But with Bejing’s ban on tours to Seoul, the local tourism industry has been hard hit, seeing a 70-percent on-year fall in Chinese tourists last month, leading to a 40-percent drop in the number of foreign tourists overall. And with heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula aggravating the situation, Seoul is expected to face its worst ever tourism deficit of 15-billion U.S. dollars this year.
But Korea has been coming up with various measures to cope with the situation. The government and related ministries worked to increase flights and cruises in and out of the country and even eased visa regulations. 3-point-4 million dollars has also been allocated to boost transport and shopping, including promoting a transportation card with extra benefits and discounts for tourists and providing free-wifi at 600 major attractions around the country. But one of the long-term goals of Korea’s tourism industry is to reduce the dependency on Chinese tourists.
“We are focusing our promotional activities on southern and central Asia, places like Taiwan and Hong Kong, doing things like making guide books and marketing through social media. We have also opened offices in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, which led to a 20 to 30 percent increase in tourists to Korea.”
The organization also launched ‘Halal Restaurant Week’ on Friday. With the number of Muslim tourists visiting the country nearing one-million a year,… the event promotes Muslim-friendly restaurants around the country and gives out discounts to tourists. Seoul City has also been working to welcome tourists from southeast Asia. The city has put up some 50 new information boards and maps with Thai, Vietnamese and Malay added in tourist hot spots. The boards previously just had information in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. One of the boards can be found at Bukchon Hanok Village, home to hundreds of Korea’s traditional houses,… and one of Seoul’s major tourist attractions.