SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Korea Bizwire) – China’s tourism agencies have resumed sales of tour packages to South Korea, industry sources said Tuesday, in the latest sign of a thaw in the bilateral ties frayed over diplomatic tension.
China’s state-owned tour operator CYTS showcased individual and group tours to Seoul, Busan and the southern resort island of Jeju on its website.
Chinese online travel agency Ctrip is also promoting related programs to South Korea through its offline stores in Beijing and Shandong.
“It is significant that state-run tour agency CYTS started to handle trips to South Korea,” an industry watcher said.
The move came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last week and they expressed hopes to improve ties.
In March, Beijing slapped a comprehensive ban on local agencies from selling tour packages to South Korea in an apparent retaliation against Seoul’s plan to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system.
China partially lifted the travel ban last month by allowing tour agencies in Beijing and Shandong to resume trips to South Korea under the condition that the package excludes hotels and duty-free shops operated by Lotte Group.
The South Korean conglomerate has come under intense fire in China after its unit has agreed to hand over its golf course in the southeastern rural city of Seongju for the installment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery.
China claims the U.S. missile defense system could hurt its security interests. Still, Seoul and Washington have dismissed such concerns, saying the U.S. missile shield is defensive in nature and focuses on North Korea’s missile activities.
The Bank of Korea said earlier this month that South Korea suffered a loss of 5 trillion won (US$4.6 billion) this year due to the decreasing number of Chinese tourists.
Over the March-October period, the number of Chinese visiting South Korea came to 2.38 million, down 60.1 percent from a year earlier.
Last year, Chinese nationals accounted for nearly half of the 17 million foreigners who visited South Korea.