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Domestic travel encouraged to boost local tourism

Apr 13,2017
To stimulate the tourism industry which is struggling due to the sudden decline of Chinese tourist groups visiting the country, the Korea Tourism Organization is encouraging locals to travel more within the country.

This move comes out of an effort to minimize any financial damage that might come after the Chinese government placed a ban on its citizens’ traveling to Korea through group packages.

The number of Chinese tourists to Korea fell by 63.6 percent between March 16 and April 6, compared to the same time last year. The ban went into effect on March 15.

The state-run tourism organization said trying to convince locals to pick travel destinations within the country is the easiest out of all the possible options.

“We of course are trying to diversify the demographics of visitors to Korea, but [setting up measures to do that] takes time and doesn’t happen in a short period of time,” said Jung Chang-soo, CEO of the Korea Tourism Organization at a press conference on Wednesday. “So we will focus on immediate actions we can take and options we can see a quick result.”

Since the weather is getting warmer, the government is again designating its seasonal “Tourism Week.” The special season will be from April 29 to May 14, two days longer than last year, and the state-run entity will work with regional governments to offer discounts applicable at restaurants and lodging options so that people can be motivated to embark on getaways from their daily lives.

The company will set an example by encouraging its employees to go on longer vacations. It said the use of one extra vacation day by company employees in Korea can inject an additional 1.8 trillion won ($1.58 billion) into the local tourism industry.

While working to boost interest within the country, the company will also try to promote Korea as an appealing travel destination to more countries. Korea saw 9.2 million non-Chinese travelers last year, and the company aims to add more than 2 million this year.

To make travel in Korea comfortable for global jet-setters, it will introduce a new online platform where one can search for hotels, book and pay for them at once. It will also invite journalists and travel industry officials from other countries so that they can experience Korea first and spread the word.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]