December 22, 2017 11:00
The Chinese government has again banned package tours to Korea effective January next year despite an agreement between the two countries to normalize relations.
Chinese travel industry sources on Thursday said the China's National Tourism Administration summoned travel agents from Shandong Province this week and informed them that group tours to Korea will be banned again.
The tourism authority also told them that group tourists who are set to depart for Korea in December need approval from the provincial government. So far group tourists had to get permission only from municipal tourism authorities.
Some travel agencies in Beijing are still selling group tours to Korea for January, but industry sources say they will be summoned early next week and given the same instructions.
On Tuesday, the Chinese government rejected applications from at least three travel agencies in Beijing seeking visas for group tourists to Korea. One travel industry source said, "We had expected group tours to Korea to expand after President Moon Jae-in's visit to China, and it's a shock to see the exact opposite happening."
Many in the industry wonder why Beijing is taking the step even as the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang are just around the corner. One official at the Korean Embassy in China said, "The decision runs counter to efforts to expand bilateral trade and cooperation."
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