More Tourists from U.S. and Europe Drawn to Korea

  • By Song Hye-jin

    September 22, 2023 09:38

    More and more tourists from the U.S. and Europe are coming to Korea, even though Asians still make up the lion's share.
    According to the Seoul Tourism Organization, Asian tourists took up 81 percent of all inbound tourists before the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, most of them from China and Japan. Chinese tourists accounted for 34.4 percent or more than one-third of all foreign tourists.
    But this year the proportion of tourists from the U.S. and Europe increased significantly, while that of Asian tourists dwindled to about 71 percent.
    The proportion of American and European tourists has been increasing in recent years. According to the Korea Tourism Organization Thursday, they took up a mere five percent and seven percent in 2019, but increased to nine percent and 14 percent this year.
    People mill at the entrance of Deoksu Palace in Seoul on Tuesday. /Yonhap
    At Hyundai Department Store's new landmark mall in the financial district of Yeouido, customers are becoming more diverse. Foreign shoppers came from about 30 countries early this year, but that grew to some 80 countries in September, including Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
    Foreign tourists are also getting younger thanks to the global popularity of Korean pop culture. According to the KTO, more than a half of French and Spanish tourists who visited Korea this year were under 30, and so were about 40 percent of visitors from the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands.
    Their travel destinations in Seoul are getting more diverse as well. A study by 7-Eleven convenience store chain in the first half of this year shows that foreigners' purchases increased the most in districts like Seongsu-dong, Sindang-dong and Yongsan, which are home to many trendy stores, cafés and restaurants.
    Often they are driven by K-pop influences. A Lotte Duty-Free staffer said, "In the past, herbal cosmetics or red ginseng products sold well, but now perfumes and other cosmetics that K-pop idols promote or Korean leggings and sportswear are selling better."
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