July 21, 2024
Tourists from South Korea take selfies in the snow at the Baofeng Lake scenic area in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, last month. WU YONGBING/FOR CHINA DAILY

Tourism industry insiders in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, are optimistic about a rebound in the number of tourists from South Korea this year as they look to recover from the market impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They said South Koreans” demand for travel to the mountainous region remains high, and as the number of direct flights to the city increases they expect the number of South Korean tourists to recover to 80 to 90 percent of the level in 2019.

Local government figures show that overseas tourists made 687,400 trips to Zhangjiajie last year, with more than 280,000 made by tourists from South Korea.

According to China Central Television, South Koreans made more than 140,000 trips to China last month, up 10-fold year-on-year.

Li Ping, secretary-general of the Zhangjiajie tourism guide association, said the city started to explore the tourism market in South Korea in 1997, and the city has remained one of the most popular travel destinations for South Koreans for many years.

He said they like the beautiful mountain scenery in Zhangjiajie, which they see as mysterious, romantic and even sacred.

“There is a popular belief in South Korea that adult children should take their elderly parents to Zhangjiajie to showcase their filial piety,” Li said.

There are more than 2,000 travel guides and translators in the city, most of whom are members of the Korean ethnic group from Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture in Jilin province, Li said.

There are also many Korean restaurants in the city, he said. Hotels and tourist sites are equipped with signposts in Korean and performances have Korean surtitles.

“We try our best to make guests from the country feel at home in Zhangjiajie, and with concerted efforts from local governments and travel agencies, I believe the number of passengers from South Korea to the city in 2024 will increase by more than 40 percent year-on-year,” Li said.

Cui Lin, president of Zhangjiajie Sky International Travel Agency, said he is also optimistic about the prospects of a rebound in visitor numbers from South Korea.

South Koreans have become even more eager to visit Zhangjiajie since the pandemic, he said.

Li said direct flights between Zhangjiajie and many cities in South Korea keep travel times to just three to four hours. Cui said the number of direct flights is expected to recover to more than 20 round trips a week in April, reaching the level in 2019.

He said he expected the number of South Korean tourists visiting Zhangjiajie this year would increase to 80 to 90 percent of the level in 2019, before the pandemic swept the globe.

Many elderly travelers from South Korea believe it is imperative to visit Zhangjiajie at least once in their lifetime and that their last overseas trip should be to the city, so many return multiple times, Cui said.

He said he has been arranging airline, hotel, car and restaurant bookings for guests from South Korea for the peak travel season from March to June.

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