SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Korea Bizwire) – It has been reported that China’s biggest travel agency, Ctrip, has been in contact with Lotte Hotel for a possible business deal, fueling speculation that China’s ban on package group tours to South Korea might soon be lifted.
According to Lotte Hotel on Thursday, Ctrip has been in touch with the South Korean hotel giant over its availability for a possible group tour package.
The talks mark the first time since the controversy over the deployment of THAAD anti-missile systems on Korean soil broke out in March that Ctrip has included a South Korean hotel franchise in its package tour programs.
“After months of hiatus, we were contacted and asked about our availability for a possible group tour package. The atmosphere might change after the national congress,” a Lotte Hotel official said.
Ctrip is thought to have been in contact with a number of hotels in South Korea popular among Chinese tourists, including Lotte Hotel.
Following the report, some have fueled speculation that after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the retaliation over the THAAD deployment might come to an end soon.
Expectations are running high already in the South Korean tourism industry, with many hoping that the rumor of the end of months-long economic retaliation over the deployment of the missile defense systems will finally end.
“After the National Congress in China, we are closely following the change of atmosphere. It’s possible that the Chinese tourist groups that have been missing for a while could suddenly come back,” a source close to the South Korean tourism industry said.
Previously, one travel agency in China’s Hebei province was reported to have begun promoting group tour packages to South Korea for the first time in seven months, adding to the speculation that the THAAD retaliation might be coming to an end.
The South Korean tourism industry has been hit hard by the Chinese government’s ban on package group tours to South Korea amid political tensions over the American THAAD anti-missile systems in South Korea.
Between March and August of this year, the total number of Chinese tourists to South Korea was estimated at around 1.72 million, down a whopping 62.2 percent from last year, dealing a severe blow to the South Korean tourism industry.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)