South Korean authorities have been putting together promotional campaigns to try to lure tourists back after going through an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, earlier this year. Park Won-soon, the Mayor of Seoul, is now in China for a four-day promotional campaign in three different Chinese cities.
“We’ve launched many tourism related programs, from sales to culture, to try to attract more tourists from China. Also we want to turn this crisis into a chance to look back on our own tourism industry. We hope to make Chinese tourists feel at home.”
Park has been meeting with Chinese government officials and travel agencies, hoping to convince them that visiting South Korea poses no health risks. He’s also popped up in a flash mob in the souther city of Guangzhou among a group of K-pop singers. Last month, Park also acted as special tour guide for a day for around 400 Chinese travel agency officials in Seoul.
The South Korean government is also launching a new series of tourism related programs, including promotional concerts and performances by popular South Korean pop singers. Won Hee-ryong, the governor of Jeju Island, a popular destination for Chinese tourists, is also in China this week trying to convince Chinese tourists to keep coming back.
“We hope to see more individual tourists from China enjoy travel on our island. The goal of the visit this time is to establish cooperation with large travel companies in China to improve the experience and services during travel from both sides.”
Since the MERS outbreak began in May, Chinese tourism numbers to South Korea have dropped by around 80-percent through this summer.
This has cost the South Korean tourism sector an estimated 93-million US dollars. Chinese nationals make up around half of all foreign visitors in South Korea every year. On July 28, the South Korean government officially declared the MERS outbreak over, with just one patient still under observation.
However, World Health Organization standards call for a four-week waiting period before the end of an outbreak can be formally declared. That announcement is expected to be made in late August.
But given the losses the country has already seen, South Korean authorities say they believe they need to lay the grounwork as quickly as possible for Chinese tourists to once again begin returning to their country.