March 13, 2023 12:37
Korea was left out in the cold when China newly authorized group package tours to 40 countries last week.
The website of China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism lists 40 countries from France and Spain to Vietnam as permissible destinations for travel agencies that organize group tours from Wednesday, but not Korea.
On Feb. 6, China selected 20 countries including Thailand, Indonesia and the UAE as authorized destinations for group tours, but at the time Seoul was locked in a diplomatic tussle with Beijing because it halted short-term visas for Chinese travelers over the coronavirus surge there.
The two sides have now resolved the conflict, but so far Korea remains excluded together with the U.S. and Japan.
Last Saturday the Korean government scrapped all COVID test requirements for visitors from China, Hong Kong and Macau because the COVID situation has stabilized.
So-called zero-dollar group tours from China and mass trips organized by large companies of hundreds and even thousands of employees used to be a lucrative business for the Korean hospitality, retail and duty-free industries.
Meanwhile, the number of incoming visitors to Korea testing positive for COVID rose from less than 100 late last year to 258 on Jan. 6 but fell to less than 20 last month.
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