SEOUL, May 16 (Korea Bizwire) — The number of South Korean tourists to Vietnam soared more than 24 percent in the first half of this year to exceed the 1 million mark, industry data showed Thursday.
A total of 1.11 million South Koreans made trips to the Southeast Asian country in the January-March period, up 24.4 percent from a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).
It marks the first time that the quarterly number of South Korean tourists to Vietnam has surpassed the 1-million threshold.
Given the current pace, the annual figure is widely estimated to exceed 4 million for this year.
After topping the 1-million level for the first time in 2015, the annual number of South Korean tourists to Vietnam rose to 2.42 million in 2017 and 3.44 million last year.
Japan was the top tourist destination for South Koreans in the first quarter, with the number of visitors to the neighboring country coming to 2.08 million.
Tourism sources said Vietnam has emerged as a popular tourist destination for South Koreans thanks to low costs and diverse content, with demand for China slackening in the aftermath of a 2017 missile defense row between Seoul and Beijing.
The KTO didn’t provide the first-quarter number of South Korean tourists to China, a popular destination before the missile defense showdown.
Seoul and Beijing engaged in the bitter diplomatic row over the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in South Korea in 2017.
The number for 2018 was also unavailable. In the wake of the THAAD dispute, the number of South Korean tourists to China plunged 19.1 percent on-year to 3.86 million in 2017.
In a separate tally, the KTO said the number of Mongolian tourists to South Korea grew at an annual rate of 16.9 percent between 2014 and 2018, reaching an all-time high of 113,864 last year.
Per-capita spending by Mongolian visitors to South Korea averaged US$2,070 last year, the largest among foreign tourists. Chinese tourists came second with $1,887, followed by those from the Middle East with $1,777.
Big spending medical tourists accounted for 11 percent of Mongolian visitors, who stayed for an average 20 days, nearly three times the 7.2-day median for all foreign tourists.