The number of Chinese tourists who visited South Korea reached a record high last year, when some 4.32 million trips were made to the ever-popular destination on the Korean Peninsula. Chinese tourists are playing an increasingly significant role for the tourism market in South Korea, accounting for 35.5 percent of the country’s inbound tourism market last year, according to the China Tourism Academy.
The number of Chinese tourists heading to South Korea this year is expected to further increase, considering that more travelers are deterred from traveling to traditionally popular destinations such as Malaysia and Vietnam. Lee Kang-wook, head of the international tourism research center of the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, said the two countries should ease the visa application process more to further boost bilateral relations and enhance the inbound tourism market of each country.
“An easier visa policy should be the priority of the two countries’ tourism exchange and cooperation,” said Lee, during the fourth China-South Korea tourism seminar on cooperation, held in Beijing on Monday. “The reduction of waiting time and procedures for a traveling visa, including the personal tourism visa and multi-entry visas, should be put on top of the agenda,” he said.
Travel agencies in China are reporting a 50 percent year-on-year increase in visits to South Korea in the first few months of this year. Shi Kaifeng, a publicity officer of Ctrip.com International, a Chinese online travel agency, said South Korea, thanks to its convenient flights and affordable tour packages, has attracted an increasing number of Chinese tourists. Other agencies including Beijing Utour International Travel Service and BTG International Travel and Tours have also reported similar increases.
The South Korean consul general in Chengdu said earlier that Seoul might follow Jeju Island in introducing a visa waiver for Chinese visitors. According to the China Tourism Academy, the number of Chinese outbound tourists has grown more than 10 percent in the past five years, and South Korea has been among the top three most visited destinations. The number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea witnessed a year-on-year 52.5 percent increase last year, with an average growth rate of 34 percent in the past five years, according to the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute.