SEOUL, March 19 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea’s tourism needs to revamp itself to reduce its dependency on China and grow into an industry that creates more added value, experts said Sunday, amid rising tension with the neighboring country over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system.
Local tourism is expected to suffer a major blow from China’s ban on selling group trips to South Korea — effective from Wednesday — one of a series of what appears to be retaliatory measures taken by Beijing against Seoul for deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) on its soil. China has vehemently objected to it, saying the system will be used to spy on its military.
While tourism and retail businesses are struggling with such hostile actions, experts here are voicing calls to use the crisis into a chance to overhaul the tourism sector to fuel “qualitative growth.”
Experts pointed out that travel agencies should stop cranking out cheap package tours that come with poor quality in accommodation and itineraries arranged mainly to focus on group tourists.
In order to make changes, they called on the government to consider setting up a separate ministerial-level body in charge of tourism affairs, like China’s National Tourism Administration.
“The government needs to set firm long-term goals instead of coming up with a one-off solution to patch up the problem, which means they need more people and budget to pull it off,” said Kim Sang-tae, an official at the Korea Culture & Tourism Institute.
Also, efforts to develop more tailored tour programs for visitors from other regions than China, such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East, are vital to the reform of the local tourism industry, experts said.
“We’re looking into easing visa requirements for the countries in the two regions, while making utmost efforts to diversify inbound visitors so as to improve the tourism industry overall,” a government official said.