SEOUL, June 7 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea will tighten regulations on tour operators that lure Chinese travelers with cheap, low-quality packages to screen out substandard agencies and improve the tourism industry’s competitiveness, the government said Tuesday.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said it will form a task force with related organizations to crack down on tour operators that offer low-quality programs and force travelers to shop at particular places in return for brokerage fees.
“As the inbound travel market is the key industry directly linked to the national image and interests, the government and industry should make concerted efforts to correct the market order and improve the quality of the overall market,” Vice Culture Minister Kim Chong said in a briefing.
In March, the ministry revoked the licenses of 68 tour operators, about 40 percent of the agencies specializing in Chinese travelers, for offering unreasonably cheap prices and employing unqualified tour guides.
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.
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.
A recent tourism survey revealed that overall satisfaction among Chinese travelers fell 0.7 percentage point to 94.1 percent in 2015. In particular, group travelers were less content with dining experiences than individual tourists.
The ministry will also step up monitoring on unqualified tour guides near shopping centers and offer customized tour guide training programs in the medical, heritage and sports sectors.
To address growing complaints, top tourism officials of South Korea, China and Japan will have a trilateral meeting in August to discuss ways to enhance the quality of the tourism industry in the respective countries and screen out substandard operators.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea had sharply risen since 2010, but it fell 2.3 percent on-year to 5.98 million in 2015, hurt by the 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.