SEOUL, March 16 (Korea Bizwire) – As China continues to withdraw its tourists from South Korea over a political issue surrounding the deployment of a THAAD missile defense system, South Korea’s tourism industry is looking to Russia to fill the gap left by what was once its biggest source of profits.
According to the Moscow office of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the organization sent the largest delegation yet to the Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), one of the top travel exhibitions in the world, which began on Tuesday and ends today at Expocentre Fairgrounds in Moscow.
Of the 35 South Korean organizations at the MITT, 18 were medical institutions, including Severance Hospital and Seoul National University Hospital.
In 2015, Russians ranked third in terms of medical tourism visits to South Korea, following China and the U.S.
South Korea is ramping up efforts to attract Russian tourists as industry experts believe Russia has great potential as a tourism market for the country. Since Western countries imposed sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, South Korea saw itself emerge as a holiday destination.
The director of US travel agency, Lee Hye-geyong, who is participating in the MITT, said, “The market for overseas tours in Russia is growing back again, and the Russian ruble is proving strong after the Ukrainian Crisis in 2014. We are hopeful that more Russian people will visit South Korea.”
Last year, around 230,000 Russian nationals visited South Korea.
Though Russia shares the same anti-U.S. military stance when it comes to THAAD much like China, the Kremlin, unlike Beijing, has yet to threaten retaliation against Seoul for hosting the highly controversial missile defense system.
With China banning package tours and discouraging cruise trips and flights to South Korea in retaliation against THAAD, the tourism industry on the receiving end of this unprecedented blow is expected to turn its attention to other countries, away from China.
Hyunsu Yim (email@example.com)