April 13, 2024
Tourists walk the streets of Myeong-dong in Jung District, central Seoul, on Jan. 16. [NEWS1]

Tourists walk the streets of Myeong-dong in Jung District, central Seoul, on Jan. 16. [NEWS1]

 
Korea tourism officials and businesses are ramping up efforts to bring back Chinese tourists and attract more travelers from the Middle East.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Monday hosted a “2024 Inbound Trend” seminar with representatives from travel platforms like Trip.com, Expedia and Klook, along with industry big names such as Xiaohongshu, BC Card and Lotte Hotels and Resorts to discuss attracting more tourists from China and the Middle East. 

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) China Department Head Jin Jong-hwa said Chinese tourists now prefer to travel individually rather than with large tourist groups. 

According to Trip.com Vice President Edison Chen, young Chinese now tend to travel alone for two to three days and exhibit double the purchasing power when booking overnight stays compared to 2019. 
 
Chen said, however, that the amount of purchasing power per Chinese visiting Korea is relatively low compared to other countries. 

The monthly average of Chinese travelers visiting Korea last year remained far below pre-pandemic levels despite China’s lifting of travel restrictions and the resumption of group tours.
 
Around 144,000 Chinese nationals visited Korea per month in 2023, according to data released by the Hyundai Research Institute in November last year. That was about one-third of the monthly average of 416,000 between 2017 to 2019. 

KTO’s Jin added while 69 percent of Chinese tourists visit Seoul, 30 percent of visitors in their 20s and 30s wanted to visit Jeju Island and 15 percent wanted to visit Busan. 

Among tourists from the Middle East, many rely on word-of-mouth recommendations rather than online ads or marketing tools, according to Lotte Hotels and Resorts Manager Seo Chul-jin, whose hotel hosted Saudia Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in 2022 among other high-profile visitors from the Middle East.
 
There are also demands for medical tourism, long-term stays and family trips among Middle East travelers to Korea, Seo said.

KTO Dubai Department Head Jeong Ji-man said 60.8 percent of Middle Eastern tourists want to travel to Korea after experiencing Korean content, like movies or music. 

Korea’s tourism scene has changed, BC Card Development Head Oh Sung-soo said during the seminar. More tourists are enjoying Korea’s evening and nightlife instead of daytime, visiting buzzing areas like Seongsu-dong in eastern Seoul and Yeouido in western Seoul in addition to central hotspots and looking to experience more Korean culture rather than just shopping, he said.

Travel patterns are also changing. One-third of tourists booking stays and flights to Korea on Expedia make reservations at least 30 days in advance, the travel platform’s Division Director, Kim Ju-yeon, said. She added that Gangwon Province and the South and North Jeolla Provinces are also up-and-coming tourist destinations in the post-Covid era where more people are looking to rest and relax. 

Klook Business Development Team Leader Moon Yong-soo emphasized the need to improve Korea’s public transportation system and facilitate the reservation and payment processes to make trips more convenient for individual travelers. 

BY LEE JIAN [[email protected]]


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