Strong Yen Bring Revival for Venerable Seoul Hotels

      March 27, 2009 07:31

      As the yen's strength leads to a surge in the number of Japanese tourists, old hotels in Seoul's Myeong-dong are experiencing another heyday. According to the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, 518,000 Japanese tourists visited Korea in January-February this year, up as much as 72 percent from a year earlier (301,000).

      Myeong-dong and Chungmuro were once famous for their luxury hotels for foreign delegates and men of means, as several hotels including Savoy Hotel, Astoria Hotel, Sejong Hotel, Royal Hotel and Pacific Hotel opened from late 1950s to early 1970s. But as large five-star hotels opened in neighboring districts, the old hotels lost their luster.

      Now, with the influx of Japanese tourists since last fall, the average weekday occupancy ratio of the five hotels in Myeong-dong skyrocketed from last year's 70 percent or so to over 90 percent this year. At neighboring modern, upscale hotels, Japanese guests accounted for only 50 percent of the total, while their ratio was 90-95 percent at some hotels in Myeong-dong.

      The most attractive feature of the old hotels is their location. A travel agent said, "The alleys in Myeong-dong are so narrow and meandering that people cannot help but walk shoulder to shoulder, and small shops line the streets. These features are similar to Japan, so Japanese tourists seem to feel at home in Myeong-dong and particularly like it."

      An official with the Korea Tourism Organization said the hotels in Myeong-dong are likely to remain popular as long as the yen is strong.

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