[EDITORIALS]A big bust for tourismThe government has decided to extend the Visit Korea Year program for one more year. We understand the government's intention of extending the program, since the World Cup and the Asian Games will take place here next year. Seoul said it would attract foreign investment in the tourism industry and increase the number of foreign tourists here. Despite those intentions, we still worry about extending the program because of the poor performance of the organizing committee for Visit Korea Year.
According to the Korea National Tourism Organization, the estimated number of foreign tourists who visit Korea this year is 5.2 million, down at least 2.3 percent from last year. There have been many unfavorable conditions, including the dispute with Japan over distorted history textbooks, a downgraded aviation safety rating and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. However, many have criticized the Visit Korea Year program for failing to provide vision for the tourism industry － even after spending 15.5 billion won ($11.9 million).
The planning team of the Visit Korea Year program came up with various projects. It held promotional events, developed tourism packages and hosted a goodwill campaign. But many of those projects overlapped with the programs of the Korea National Tourism Organization. Moreover, Visit Korea did a poor job of studying the infrastructure of the tourism industry and investing in that infrastructure. Although the end of Visit Korea Year nears, road signs bearing incorrect information still decorate the nation. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to travel around the peninsula easily by using a map.
In order to lead the program to success, it is important to reinforce the foundations of the culture and tourism industries with systematic measures. Enhancing the level of services at lodging facilities and providing diversified transportation systems to help tourists travel easily are necessary. The program should also recruit more staff with better language skills.