SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Korea Bizwire) – Despite the efforts of South Korean tourism authorities to attract Southeast Asians to fill a void left by Chinese tourists, the number of visitors from the Southeast Asian region dropped between March and August this year, new data has revealed.
According to data from the Korea Tourism Organization submitted to lawmaker Kim Byung-wook, who is a member of the Education, Culture, Sports, and Tourism Committee on Wednesday, the number of Southeast Asian nationals who visited South Korea between March and August this year stood at nearly 1.57 million, down 1.5 percent compared to the same time last year.
The worrying data comes amid a drastic drop in the number of Chinese tourists due to a package tour ban by the Chinese government over the politically charged THAAD anti-missile systems deployed on South Korean soil in defense of attacks from North Korea.
When broken down by month, the influx of Southeast Asian tourists grew in March and April by 5.5 and 17.3 percent, respectively, until a downward spiral began in May, with visitor numbers dropping by 9 and nearly 11 percent in June and July.
The number of visitors from Indonesia and the Philippines dropped most significantly, by 27.4 and 23.5 percent, while the number of tourists coming from Malaysia and Hong Kong increased by a mere 1.2 and 2.4 percent.
In the meantime, the number of Chinese tourists stood at around 1.72 million, down a whopping 62.2 percent from last year, dealing a severe blow to the South Korean tourism industry, which has been relying heavily on tour groups from China.
Kim says the latest figures show the government’s efforts to overcome the hardships felt by the tourism industry aren’t working as expected.
“The fact that the number of tourists from countries like Indonesia and Malaysia is declining deserves attention as it means the government’s efforts to fill the void left by Chinese tourists by attracting Muslim tourists aren’t bringing about the desired outcomes,” Kim said.
“The economic damages to the tourism industry due to political, military and diplomatic tensions concerning national security and the deployment of a THAAD system are more severe than expected,” he added.
Kim argued measures to strengthen tourism infrastructure and boost domestic tourism, such as giving South Koreans more days off, are necessary to help revitalize the tourism industry.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)