SEOUL, Sept. 21 (Korea Bizwire) – With the 10 day-long Chuseok holiday fast approaching, the South Korean tourism industry finds itself at a critical turning point, with millions of South Koreans deciding between traveling around the country and going abroad.
This year’s much anticipated Chuseok holiday, South Korea’s Thanksgiving celebration, is one of the longest in recent memory, and a recent survey by Dailyhotel revealed nearly nine in ten people have travel plans.
According to the Jeju Provincial Tourism Association, more than 90 percent of hotels and resorts are projected to be booked during the holiday season, while Korean Air has announced it is expanding flights between Seoul and Jeju Island amid growing demand.
However, despite the rosy prospects, many fear years of rip-offs during holiday seasons by lodging businesses and restaurants at popular holiday destinations might finally backfire this year, as contradicting figures and reports of pricy domestic travel options suggest the tourism industry could be in for a surprise, with some predicting a possible exodus of up to 1.1 million South Koreans during the 10-day holiday.
Earlier this week, Lotte Members predicted domestic consumption will drop during October due to the long Chuseok holiday, with a record number of tourists expected to go overseas, leaving a void in the country’s tourism industry that has already been hit hard by an absence of Chinese tourists following South Korea’s deployment of a THAAD missile defense system, as well as growing tension with North Korea that has brought adverse effects.
Last month, the Korea Tourism Organization already reported that the number of South Koreans traveling abroad will be twice that of foreigners visiting the country this year because of political discord with neighboring countries like China and North Korea.
Reports of a so-called exodus of South Korean travelers during this year’s Chuseok holiday are only going to exacerbate the worrying trend for the country’s tourism industry.
It is worth mentioning that the number of outbound travelers in South Korea was already growing prior to the political disputes with the North and China, as questions of the cost-effectiveness of domestic trips continue to dominate online communities.
Unsatisfied with trips within the country that are often plagued by price rip-offs, and with a multitude of affordable overseas flight options thanks to a growing number of low-cost airlines, South Koreans are turning their interest towards other countries.
As the cost of living continues to rise, findings from a survey in August by travel booking giant Expedia revealed that over 76 percent of the respondents thought that lodging in South Korea was too expensive, while over 30 percent preferred traveling abroad as there was little to no difference with regard to travel expenses.
Against this backdrop, some have expressed concern over the government’s designation of Oct. 2 as a one-time holiday to extend this year’s vacation period to 10 days, as the move might end up having the perverse effect of helping other nations’ economies to the detriment of South Korea’s.
A number of local governments are taking matters into their own hands in response to criticism over price gouging, in a bid to attract tourists during what could be a big opportunity for rural tourism.
Yeongdong County launched a campaign last month to tackle rip-offs among local businesses, deploying monitoring agents to secure price stability and gain trust.
Jinju is holding a number of major festivals coinciding with the Chuseok holiday, while the local government will also launch a campaign to extend lodging capacity in the region and crack down on price gouging during the festival season.
With over twice as many South Koreans set to travel abroad during Chuseok compared to last year, the government and tourism industry are being urged to be more market savvy to achieve a balance between inbound and outbound tourism.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)