September 26, 2016 11:55
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Korea dropped for the first time last month. The Korea Tourism Organization on Friday said 873,771 Chinese tourists visited Korea in August, down five percent from the previous month.
Industry insiders fear the decline may stem from growing anti-Korean sentiment in China over the stationing of a U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here.
Chinese travelers usually book their trips to Korea about a month in advance, and Korea announced the decision on July 8.
"Just as the number of Japanese tourists dropped in 2012 after President Lee Myung-bak visited the Dokdo islets, we are worried that the same thing may happen due to the THAAD deployment," a duty-free shop staffer said.
Around 300 Chinese who were scheduled to visit Daegu on July 27 canceled their plans following the announcement of the THAAD plan, and some 3,000 others scrapped their scheduled visit to Seoul to watch a World Cup qualifier between Korea and China in early September.
But the number of Japanese tourists grew 17.5 percent from July to 225,456 in August. Over the same period, the occupancy rates of local hotels also saw the number of Chinese guests drop and the number of Japanese ones increase.
Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul said occupancy by Japanese guests rose from 26 percent in July to 30 percent in August, while occupancy by Chinese guests fell from 35 percent to 28 percent.
A KTO staffer attributed the trend to the strengthening Japanese yen and more flights between the two countries.
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