August 09, 2019 13:49
Visitors from Japan, a mainstay of Korea's tourism industry, are expected to go elsewhere amid an escalating spat between the two neighbors.
The number of Japanese requests for information about a trip to Korea for the first week of August plummeted nearly 80 percent on-year, one travel agency in Seoul said. There have been almost no inquiries since the Japanese Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory for Korea on Aug. 4.
"Bookings for travel to Korea for September through November are fewer than half of previous years," a staffer said.
Reports in the Japanese media about the typically robust Korean protests have scared many travelers off even if they have no particular feelings about the substance of the dispute.
Hotels are struggling. "There were only a few cancellations by Japanese tourists until late July but there's been a drastic increase recently," said the manager of a hotel in downtown Seoul. Some 1,500 rooms booked until February next year at nearby hotels have already been canceled, mostly by Japanese travelers.
The number of arrivals from Japan had been on the rise again over the past few years. Some 1.65 million Japanese tourists arrived in the first half of this year, up 26.6 percent from 1.31 million on-year. Japanese travelers took up 19.6 percent of foreign travelers this year, up 3.2 percentage points from the same period of 2017.
"The number of Japanese tourists didn't fall noticeably in July and August because many of them had booked three to six months ahead and few canceled. The bigger problem lies ahead," an industry insider said.
The Korea Tourism Organization is promoting travel packages for K-pop fans in the Americas and Europe in an effort to reduce dependency on Japan. The number of travelers from the Americas and Europe has increased more than five percent annually over the past five years, a KTO official said.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is betting on Chinese social media influencers to lure Chinese tourists and will open up a booth in Guangzhou to promote trips to Korea.
Some experts are still optimistic, believing that the number of Japanese tourists has not fallen to alarming proportions yet. "Most Japanese visitors to Korea are independent female travelers in their 20s and 30s who are enthusiastic about K-pop and Korean cosmetics," the KTO official added. "They're less influenced by diplomatic or political issues."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com