Chinese tourists are back with wallets opened

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Chinese tourists are back with wallets opened

Chinese tourists are returning to Korea.

The number of Chinese tourists in October reached a high for the year, and their contribution to the Korean domestic economy is increasing.

After the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in late May, the so-called youke - the Mandarin word for tourists - switched their vacation destination to Japan or nearby countries for the summer. Korea saw the number of Chinese tourists slashed almost in half in June and July. Only 255,000 youke entered Korea in July, the lowest number of the year.

However, the number in October soared to 650,174, up 15.6 percent year on year, according to the Korea Tourism Organization on Thursday.

Based on the statistics, local analysts say that not only is the sheer number of Chinese tourists increasing, but their level of spending is also picking up, giving a major boost to the domestic economy.

It’s estimated that Chinese tourists will spend 15.28 trillion won ($13.23 billion) by the end of this year, Korea Investment & Securities said on Friday, up from 13.5 trillion won last year and 10.7 trillion won in 2013.

The firm emphasized that the contribution of spending by youke to Korea’s domestic consumption and gross domestic product is expanding.

“With local private consumption growing only in the 1 percent range, consumption by the youke has been helping the local service industry recover,” said Park Jung-woo, a researcher at Korea Investment & Securities. “An increasing number of youke helped enable the service industry’s production rebound in the third quarter.”

Spending by the youke accounted for about 1.8 percent of total domestic consumption last year, up from 1.5 percent in 2013. The portion is expected to increase to as much as 2 percent by the end of this year and to 2.4 percent next year, the firm estimated, considering that consumption by locals is not growing, while the number of Chinese tourists is forecast to keep rising.

The number of youke is expected to reach up to 7.4 million next year, and their spending may raise Korean GDP by as much as 1 percent, the firm said, considering their per capita spending is also on the rise.

In 2014, 6.12 million Chinese tourists spent about 13.5 trillion won, which accounted for about 0.7 percent of Korean GDP that year.

BY KIM JI-YOON [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]

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