More Chinese opt out of 2nd visits

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More Chinese opt out of 2nd visits

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Chinese tourists visiting Korea have increased steadily for the past 14 years, but the satisfaction tourists feel with their trips may be lower, according to a report on Tuesday by the Korea Economic Research Institute.

Travelers from China to Korea numbered only 480,000 in 2001, but the number rose to 6.13 million last year. In 2013, the number of Chinese coming here outstripped the number of Korean tourists to China. If the annual average of a 21.5 percent increase continues, Korea could welcome 12.8 million Chinese tourists annually by 2020, according to the report.

But there is a problem, it seems, in how first-time visitors from China view their experience here. The most telling indicator may be that among the arrivals from China last year, only 11.6 percent were on their second visit here. That’s a fall from 14.8 percent of Chinese coming here a second time in 2011. Visitors here for the first time were 68 percent of all Chinese tourists four years ago but 79 percent of the total last year.

And visitors from China are not staying here as long as they did in the past. The average stay dropped from 10 to less than six days on average over the same time. Eighty percent said they were here for shopping; they also cited dining and visiting tourist attractions as leading activities. Their destinations were primarily Seoul or Jeju.

“Although the number of youke (a term for Chinese tourists) has been increasing, the quality of their travel is regressing,” said Chang Byung-kwon, professor of hotel and tourism at Howon University in North Jeolla, who wrote the report.

Neighboring countries have scrambled to introduce incentives to lure more Chinese tourists, whose numbers and spending can be a big economic boost. With increasing prosperity in their homeland, the 100 million Chinese who traveled abroad last year are a significant force.

Japan has changed its duty-free policies for foreign visitors and has developed cruise and casino tourism programs to cater mainly to Chinese tourists. As a result, Japan was a leader in arrivals by Chinese visitors in the first quarter, the Japan National Tourism Organization said in May. The Japanese statistics also said there were more than 1.32 million arrivals from the Chinese mainland in the first four months of this year, nearly double the numbers of the previous year. Korea was second, at 1.2 million arrivals, and Taiwan third, at 1.1 million.

“Korea first needs to eliminate low-budget tourism programs that heavily rely on shopping sprees and overcharging,” Chang, the report’s author, continued. He wants improvements in tourist packages aimed at Chinese of ages 20 to 40, the highest-income, largest-spending age group.

In Thailand, the government took the lead to root out low-cost packages for Chinese tourists so that the quality of travel could be improved and the country could attract more big-spending travelers. Singapore has developed experts in Chinese travelers’ wishes since 2006, and began in June to give visas with 10-year validity to Chinese second-time visitors.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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