Waves of Chinese tourists getting even bigger

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Waves of Chinese tourists getting even bigger

The chicken and maekju (beer) enjoyed by a 4,500-strong tour group from China this week must have gone down well. Because an even bigger Chinese tour group has signed up to arrive in May.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government and Korea Tourism Organization announced Tuesday that from May 5 to 13, 8,000 employees of the Nanjing Zhongmai Science and Technology Development Company will be visiting Seoul on an incentive tour, the largest number of tourists to visit the city as a single group.

“Since it would be difficult to host a total of 8,000 tourists in Seoul, given limited accommodations and parking spaces, the employees will be coming in two different batches,” a Seoul Metropolitan Government official said.

The first 4,000 Nanjing Zhongmai employees will visit Seoul from May 5 to 9, and the second from May 9 to 13. They will be staying in three to four hotels, including the Hotel Shilla.

Destinations for the Chinese tourists include Myeong-dong, a shopping mecca in Seoul, Namsan Park, duty-free shops, Lotte World and Gyeongbok Palace.

Seoul expects to rake in as much as 20 billion won ($17 million) from the group’s nine days visiting the city.

Incheon is currently hosting some 5,400 tourists from China, also on an incentive tour sponsored by Guangzhou-based cosmetics company Aurance. They had their own chimaek, or chicken and maekju, party on Monday, with 3,000 chickens. Incheon expects to rake in as much as 12 billion won from that group.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government credits its own MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) industry division for landing the contract.

According to the Korea Tourism Organization, tourists who visit the country via invitations and engagements from the MICE industry, which includes incentive tours by companies, spend 1.8 times more money per person than tourists who visit the country independently.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government also said that 60.4 percent of tourists, or 568,642 out of 940,815, who visit Korea via MICE industry invitations are traveling on company incentive or reward trips.

But landing the 8,000-strong Nanjing Zhongmai contract was not easy, according to the Seoul government. The city competed with Singapore and Bangkok, and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon traveled to Shanghai last August to convince major Chinese companies to make Korea their destination for incentive tours.

Meanwhile, Chungju in North Chungcheong is planning to host this year another 5,000 Chinese tourists, most of them martial artists. Chungju has been hosting the Chungju World Martial Arts Festival annually since 2000.

The city government of Chungju discussed co-hosting a bilateral martial arts festival with China last December, and since then has been actively inviting Chinese martial artists.

The first bilateral martial arts event took place on Monday, where 220 martial artists from Shandong province demonstrated tai chi and performed individual and group competitions in Chungju. The Chinese visitors toured Tangeumdae Terrace, the Chungju World Martial Arts Park and Suanbo Oncheon, a hot spring located in Suanbo-myeon, Chungju.

Chungju will be hosting another 1,100 Chinese martial artists over four different occasions in April. Most of the visiting martial artists are members of the Chinese Wushu Association and come from Beijing as well as Jilin, Shandong and Henan provinces.

In preparation for their arrival, the Chungju city government published tourist maps and leaflets in Chinese.

BY CHOI JONG-KWON, YOO SEONG-WOON [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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