More tourists from China pick Japan over Korea

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More tourists from China pick Japan over Korea

Korea attracted more Chinese tourists than Japan in past years, but the trend reversed last year, according to the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) on Tuesday.

Japan brought in 20 million tourists last year, while Korea had 13 million Chinese visitors. The record is a departure from previous years since Korea drew more visitors from 2011 to 2014.

The country’s largest business lobbying group called on the Korean government to emulate the moves of its Japanese counterparts, saying that the government’s efforts contributed a lot to the increased numbers, as well as other factors such as the weak yen and the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome in Korea last year.

“In 2012, when the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyudao, escalated tensions and led to the cancellation of trips by Chinese tourists to Japan, the Japanese government swiftly moved to restore tourism by easing the visa issuing process,” the group said. “As a result, the arrival of Chinese tourists rose significantly in 2014.”

More tourists in Japan translated into a surge in the so-called tourism surplus of 11 trillion won ($9.2 billion). This means foreign tourists spent 11 trillion won more in Japan than their Japanese equivalents spent overseas. Meanwhile, Korea posted a 6 trillion won loss.

Entering this year, the total number of Chinese tourists visiting Korea has surpassed the figure to Japan. But the annual result can be different, the FKI warned.

“Since year-on-year growth rates of tourists in Japan is far higher compared to the record involving travelers in Korea, the reversed trend can go on [this year],” the FKI said.

For instance, a total of 475,116 Chinese tourists went to Japan in January this year, up 110 percent compared to the same month last year.

Korea attracted 521,981 people, growing 32.4 percent year on year.

“The Korean government needs to make efforts to diversify the nationalities of tourists, since Korea’s tourism is heavily dependent on China,” it said.

Now, 45 percent of tourists to Korea come from China, while 25 percent of tourists to Japan are Chinese.

The group suggested that the government and tourism-related bodies set their sights on neighboring countries such as Taiwan and Japan.

The organization has called for the deregulation of certain areas to boost tourism. The main suggestion is that the government remove restrictions banning hotel construction near school zones.

Under current laws, hotels are not allowed to be built within 200 meters (655 feet) of a school on the grounds that students could be led astray.

The FKI also noted that the tax refund process is too complicated for foreign tourists. In Japan, a traveler can get refunds directly from shops, the group said.


BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]




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