January 15, 2020 12:39
One of China's major travel agencies advertised package tours to Korea on its website but then removed the ads when the Korean press crowed about what they saw as a lifting of a ban on such tours.
The Chinese government has imposed a semi-official ban on package tours to Korea, which has become porous but not completely lifted as tensions between the two countries continue to simmer.
China's largest online travel agency Ctrip started selling package tours to Korea and Thailand recently, but when Korean media caught wind of them they were scrapped.
China imposed the ban in March 2017 over a spat over the deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery in Korea, but partly lifted it in December that year after a summit in Beijing between their leaders. It has since allowed offline sales of package tours to Korea in some parts of the country including Beijing, Shandong and Shanghai but online sales have remained banned.
The reason was only partly the boycott and partly an attempt to curb the zero-dollar tours, where large groups travel for almost nothing but are then herded from one shopping opportunity to another to recoup the cost.
After news of Chinese President Xi Jinping's impending visit to Korea early this year, expectations rose that the ban would be completely lifted, prompting Chinese travel agencies to try advertising package tours to Korea online to gauge consumer responses, according to industry watchers.
One staffer at a Chinese travel agency said, "The overseas destinations of Chinese travelers have become more diverse, but there is still strong demand for trips to Korea. The industry is anticipating an improvement in Korea-China relations following President Xi's visit."
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