Silver is gold for city’s tourism

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Silver is gold for city’s tourism

Gwangju Metropolitan City is about to experience a massive influx of elderly Chinese people as the city has been striving to develop and promote tour packages just for silvers.

On Wednesday at the Bitgoeul Senior Health Town in Gwangju, Zhang Wen, the chairwoman of the board of directors at a China-based civic alliance that organizes tourist programs for Chinese visitors, signed an agreement with the Gwangju government to hold a celebration when the number of elderly Chinese tourists there reaches 10,000 this year.

Eight other members from the alliance watched over the signing ceremony.

The alliance, which attracts more than 10,000 tourists yearly, manages a total of 88 travel agencies in China.

The alliance is planning to send a first tour group composed of some 600 senior citizens on March 2. The same trip will be repeated 10 times through the end of this year in order to fulfill the goal of bringing 10,000 Chinese visitors to Gwangju.

“If enough lodging facilities to accommodate Chinese tourists are secured, a maximum of some 15,000 elderly people expect to tour Gwangju by the end of this year,” said Yang Li Ping, president of the association of Qinhuangdao’s travel agencies in Hebei Province.

Many older Chinese tourists said they are surprised to see high-quality recreational facilities and services suitable for senior citizens. They added that aged Chinese people who visit Korea will enjoy their time in Gwangju because of the good service and facilities.

A 2008 study that found that elderly Chinese tourists spent an average of 1.47 million won ($1,268) indicates that tourist profits may hit 14.7 billion won.

Many say the rise is the result of the city government securing a niche market.

Gwangju has been developing marketing strategies to attract senior citizens from China since the senior health town was opened last June.

In cooperation with Incheon, which has much experience luring elderly Chinese visitors, Gwangju held a briefing session introducing the town at Qinhuangdao. Two months later, some 300 Chinese senior citizens visited the town.

“We became convinced that we could create a new tourist market for elderly Chinese people after witnessing how impressed the visiting Chinese tourists were with the town,” said Kim Jib-jung, an official at the Gwangju government.

Kim also said the city sought assistance from the Korea Tourism Organization to gain the trust of the Chinese travel agencies.

Gwangju, Incheon and the tourism organization jointly held presentations for Korean tourism in Qinhuangdao, Beijing, Tianjin and Shenyang for eight days at the beginning of December last year.

In January, joint delegations participated in the alliance’s general meeting that took place at Xiamen in Fujian Province. The delegation explained what services it would provide for Chinese tourists to Korea.

As of end of last year, the senior population in China was approximately 300 million.

After consulting with Incheon and the organization, Gwangju plans to amuse Chinese elders by holding many recreational performances and contests. Gwangju is also slated to escort the tourists through town and provide medical examinations for free.

Most of all, the city will set up an outdoor stage and offer performances from Gwangju’s municipal choir, troupe and children’s choir.

Senior-friendly products and regional specialties will also be on sale in Gwangju.

“I heard there are many Chinese elderly people who want to spend time with Korean senior citizens,” said Kim Yong-jin, CEO of KO&C travel agency. “If the Chinese think they are treated well during their tour, more Chinese are likely to swarm into the city.”

About 2,300 foreigners visited Gwangju in 2007, according to the city. The figure rose to 4,300 in 2008 and 10,000, including 4,000 Chinese tourists, in 2009, respectively.



By Chun Chang-hwan [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]

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