SEOUL, May 4 (Korea Bizwire) – South Koreans refrained from traveling to China last month and opted to fly to Japan or Southeast Asia instead, industry data showed on Tuesday, as the ongoing diplomatic spat has caused many to become weary of the neighboring country.
According to the data by Hana Tour, the country’s No. 1 travel agency, some 276,000 people took overseas trips through its tours offered in April, up 15.8 percent from the previous year.
Of the figure, those who traveled to China more than halved, while outbound visitors to Southeast Asia surged 62.2 percent over the cited period, the travel agency said. The number of outbound travelers to the South Pacific and Japan also jumped nearly 40 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
The South Korea-China relationship has frayed in recent months over Seoul’s planned deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system, or THAAD, on its soil. Angered by Seoul’s decision, Beijing has imposed a series of measures in an apparent sign of retaliation, including a ban on selling tours from March 15 onwards.
“The increase in the tally of Southeast Asia-bound travelers made up for the sagging demand for China,” a Hana Tour official said. “Those who left for the South Pacific and Europe just ahead of the golden holiday week have also helped push up the tally.”
Many South Koreans are on a week-long holiday this week, as May Day, Buddha’s Birthday and Children’s Day all fall within the five day workweek. Those that can take time off on Tuesday and Thursday can get upwards of nine days of vacation time if the weekends are included.
Mode Tour, another travel agency here, said the number of China-bound travelers plunged nearly 58 percent in April from a year earlier, while total outbound travelers climbed 28.5 percent on-year.
Those who traveled to Japan soared by 77 percent, with the figure to Southeast Asia and Europe growing 47.3 percent and 75.9 percent each, it said.