SEOUL, March 28 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea has canceled the licenses of 68 tour operators that lure Chinese travelers with cheap, low-quality packages or hire unqualified guides to improve the tourism industry’s competitiveness, the culture ministry said Monday.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has conducted reviews on 170 tour agencies specializing in Chinese travelers, and revoked licenses of 40 percent of them for failing to meet the requirements.
Most of them offered unreasonably cheap prices and employed unqualified tour guides, while some had weak financial structures or attracted few travelers, the ministry said.’
There are 219 tour agencies handling Chinese travelers, and the government reviews their licenses every two years.
The latest measures make good on the government’s pledge to crack down on low-quality tour operators, enhance the quality of tour services and improve the overall image of Korea to encourage travelers to revisit in the future.
“We will expand the entry of new competitive tour operators to improve the quality of group tour packages and develop various programs,” Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok said.
Tour agencies targeting the Chinese have sprung up in recent years as the popularity of K-pop and Korean dramas have attracted more visitors from the Asian neighbor. But cutthroat competition has prompted some agencies to offer very cheap package programs that include filthy rooms and expensive options, and often force tourists to drop by several souvenir shops to reap commissions.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea fell 2.3 percent on-year to 5.98 million in 2015, hit by a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.
South Korea aims to attract 8 million Chinese tourists this year by offering various specialized tour packages in fashion, beauty, culture and leisure; adopting eased visa regulations; and expanding air routes between the two nations.