A total of 4.99 million Chinese travelers visited Japan last year, setting a new record, according to reports based on data released by the Japan National Tourism Organization on Wednesday. On the other hand, the number of Chinese visitors to Korea, fell 2.3 percent from 6.12 million to 5.98 million, according to separate data released by the Korea Tourism Organization.
Japan also outpaced Korea in terms of the growth rate of Chinese tourists as the country saw a 253 percent increase between 2010 and 2015. Korea saw a 219 percent increase over the same period.
Industry watchers say that many Chinese travelers may have visited Japan instead of Korea last year due to concerns about the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak. In addition, they highlighted reasons such as a lack of tourism activities, the waning popularity of the Korean wave or hallyu, and frequent incidents of local businesses overcharging tourists in Korea.
A recent study has also showed that Chinese travelers are increasingly complaining about the poor quality of tourism programs in Korea. They find that apart from shopping, there are few activities to do.
Chinese tourists account for nearly half of all foreign visitors to Korea. As part of efforts to boost tourism, the government said Wednesday that it has decided to ease visa requirements for Chinese tourists. Travelers with high-profile professions such as legal experts and college professors will also be given 10-year tourist visas.
Meanwhile, Lotte Group said that it has developed a new mobile application for Chinese travelers. It provides a wide range of information including information about shopping areas, tourist sites and accommodation. Called “Tien Tien Lur Tien,” it also has features such as mobile coupons, translation services and maps.