HONGSEONG, South Korea, July 29 (Korea Bizwire) – China’s Tsingtao Brewery made a last-minute decision on July 19 not to partake in the Daegu Chimaek (chicken and beer) Festival, which kicked off on July 27 in Daegu, less than two weeks after the Korean government announced that it would deploy a THAAD battery in South Korea.
Similar cancellations have since followed Tsingtao’s lead, according to tourism industry officials, who also point to the latest THAAD deployment decision as the major cause of a decreasing number of Chinese tourists.
China has long-opposed the deployment of the battery, claiming that THAAD will not provide a fundamental resolution to the latest North Korean provocations.
“We see a rising number of Chinese tourists cancelling travel reservations that were scheduled for August,” said a tourism industry official during a meeting Thursday, joined by other officials from travel agencies that specialize in hosting Chinese tourists in Korea.
According to the agencies, they’re also having difficulty recruiting Chinese tourists for the Golden Week three-day holiday, which begins on October 1 in China, a process that should have been completed by now.
“We’ve had a soaring number of Chinese tourists visit in recent years with improving Korea-China relations,” said Choo Shin-gang, president of the Asia Inbound Tourism Association. “But the latest THAAD deployment decision has badly damaged the industry, and we expect to continue having difficulties attracting Chinese tourists for quite some time.”
Mr. Choo also added that Korea has “depended too much” on its western neighbor not just for tourism, but in other industries in general.
In fact, exports to China currently account for over 25 percent of all Korean exports, and the Korean retail industry has proven to be heavily reliant on Chinese consumers.
Chinese tourists accounted for 78 percent of sales at Lotte Duty Free and 65 percent of sales at The Shilla Duty Free in H1 2016, while they also accounted for an average of 25 percent and 20 percent of guests at Lotte and Shilla hotels, respectively, in the past year.
But while some experts claim that China may promote anti-Korean campaigns as economic retaliation for the THAAD decision, some refute the claims saying that such circumstances are highly unlikely to unfold.
“There is a very low probability of China seeking economic retribution against Korea for the battery deployment,” said a professor at Remin University of China. “China is more than aware that economic cooperation is essential for both countries.”
Kim Jong-dae, CEO of a travel agency in Asan, remained unconvinced that the number of Chinese tourists would drop precipitously.
“As a travel agency operator, I’m not sensing any dramatic changes in the number of tourists from China. Although there are some Chinese tourists that advocate against visiting Korea, this is neither the official position of the Chinese government, nor the perception prevalent among the majority,” said Kim.
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)