December 16, 2016 12:57
The government hopes to attract a better class of repeat visitor from China with a new five-year multiple-entry visa for tourists who buy more expensive package tours.
A government official said Thursday that the visa is aimed at discouraging cut-price package tours and will be available for those who spend more than W3 million on their tour (US$1=W1,180).
Most Chinese visitors currently come on single-entry visas, are herded around shopping destinations and never come again. But from next year Chinese tourists with the new multiple-entry visas can stay in Korea for up to 30 days at a time and take a more leisurely approach.
The number of Chinese tourists surpassed 100 million last year and is expected to reach 200 million by 2020.
The U.S. and European countries are also trying hard to attract more Chinese tourists because they spend more than 100 trillion a year on overseas travel annually.
Korea's tourism industry is increasingly dependent on Chinese visitors. Eight million are expected to visit Korea this year, accounting for around half of all foreign visitors.
The government aims to issue around 300,000 of the new visas next year and 1 million by 2020, when their holders are expected to account for 10 percent of all Chinese visitors to Korea. "If well-off Chinese tourists visit Korea and open their wallets, the Korean economy could get a strong boost," a government spokesman said.
Japan saw 5.5 million Chinese visitors in the first 10 months of this year after streamlining the visa application process and expanding the lineup of duty-free products from clothes and cosmetics to daily necessities.
Thailand, which attracted 7.9 million Chinese visitors last year, is also coming up with more upscale travel packages and began issuing six-month, multiple-entry visas for Chinese tourists. France streamlined its tax refund process aiming to attract 5 million Chinese visitors.
Kim Sang-tae of the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute said, "We can't immediately relax the existing visa scheme because a lot of Chinese come here on cut-price packages and stay on illegally, but we need to make visas easier to promote the tourism industry."
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