Record 13.7M outbound tourists expected in 2012Despite the economic recession, the number of outbound tourists this year is expected to beat the previous record of 13.3 million set in 2007, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said yesterday.
The KTO expects the number to reach up to 13.7 million by the end of the year.
“Inbound travelers have also increased significantly, exceeding 10 million people for the first time,” said an official from the organization.
As of the end of October, 11.4 million people have left on overseas trips this year, KTO statistics show. The numbers climbed every month from February, with the most growth registered in October.
Travel agencies are among the main beneficiaries.
HanaTour, the country’s largest travel company, said yesterday it has attracted 1.46 million customers who have bought either flights, hotels or package trips overseas as of the end of November.
This compares to 1.39 million for the whole of 2011, leading it to expect a record number of customers this year. It expects to see demand rise further this month.
The travel industry said shrinking consumer sentiment has not significantly dented people’s enthusiasm for spending their holidays on foreign shores.
A growing number of younger people are scrimping on general consumption and using their savings to splurge on vacations abroad, industry figures say.
Additionally, the early onset of cold weather this winter has spurred trips to the tropics and warmer climates, HanaTour said.
“From October to November, the number of people bound for Southeast Asia has increased greatly from last year,” said Kim Min-young, who works for HanaTour.
Meanwhile, despite the rise in outbound travel, Korea is expected to post a surplus on its service balance for the first time in 14 years.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said yesterday in the first 10 months of this year the service balance posted a surplus of $2.7 billion.
This is a turnaround from the $5.35 billion deficit tallied during the same period last year.
The ministry said it expects the country to post a surplus of $5 billion at the end of the year if this trend continues.
The service balance is the difference between exports and imports in the construction, transportation and tourism sector.
“The service balance for 2012 will likely turn around to post a surplus for the first time in 14 years since 1998 on the back of declining shortfalls in tourism and an expanded surplus in the construction and transportation sectors,” the report said.
In 1998, the country posted a surplus but it was mostly driven by an abnormal plunge in overseas spending in the wake of the financial crisis.
“We will do our utmost to consolidate the surplus trend in the service sector by attracting more foreign tourists, improving the competitiveness of businesses and encouraging our service-related industries to advance into overseas markets,” the ministry said.
By Kim Jung-yoon, Yonhap [firstname.lastname@example.org]