Smart tourism plan neededThe government has set up a so-called control tower to effectively direct and build the tourism industry to generate future growth for the country, as the Korean tourism industry has come under fire for the prevalence of rip-off packages.
Japan has been way ahead in courting cash-packed and population-rich China. It established a tourism administration in 2008 with a long-term roadmap to building the tourism and service industries as well as the high-tech manufacturing sector. Last year, Japan drew 19.74 million tourists, compared with Korea, which drew 13.23 million.
The government should not try to find excuses such as the cheaper yen or the outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. As we have seen from Japan’s feat, tourism should be an area we must nurture and build with long-term vision. The establishment of a policy control tower should be the starting point for us to rebuild our crumbling tourism industry. We must study cases in foreign countries and seek opinions from experts to map out a master plan. Korea not only lags behind Japan, but also Singapore and Macao in tourism.
China has turned Macao into all-inclusive resort island since it redeemed control of the territory from Portugal in 1999. The Cotai Strip, reclaimed to join two islands of Colane and Taipa, has been recreated to resemble the hotel-casino dynasty of the Las Vegas Strip. It is now home to six smaller versions of hotel-casino establishments of international names. Foreign visitors to Macao exceeded 30 million last year as more head to the resort destination for business conventions and pleasure vacations. Korea will lose all appeal to the Chinese if there are more places like Cotai Strip in Chinese territory.
Korea has embarked on a casino-resort development project in Yeongjong island in Incheon. Of the three that won the business license, Lippo Group of Indo-Chinese capital is taking steps to pull out. Cosmetics and healthcare companies came to Korea recently for an employee event, but how long the tourism sector can rely entirely on Chinese enchantment with Korean beauty and entertainment business is uncertain.
A tourism industry has life and prospects when visitors want to return to the destination over and over again. Paris, New York and Hong Kong are good examples. The government must redesign the infrastructure and policy to promote a lasting tourism industry. The president should spearhead the campaign to give traction to the move.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 31, Page 30