Missing the holiday effectThe unprecedentedly lengthy Chuseok holiday is unlikely to help much to stimulate domestic demand as ardently hoped for by our authorities and businesses throughout the country.
Korea is enjoying one of its longest Chuseok holidays ever. Some people are getting 10-day vacations or even longer if they use their own vacation time. But a lot of people are using the long holiday to go overseas instead of spending time — and money — at home.
If not for the group travel ban imposed by Beijing in retaliation for the deployment of a U.S. missile shield, Korea would have benefited big from tourists coming into the country for the next few days. Our Chuseok coincides with China’s Oct. 1-8 Golden Week commemorating National Day. Chinese visitors coming to Korea during the weeklong holiday this year will likely be half the 90,000 who came a year ago.
The number of Koreans going overseas is estimated at 1.2 million. On Sept. 30, 114,746 people departed through Incheon International Airport, and the numbers are expected to get bigger.
According to the Bank of Korea, Korean travelers spent 30.3 trillion won ($26.5 billion) overseas last year. That figure did not include purchases from offshore shopping sites or spending on business trips.
In August, Korea’s travel deficit reached $1.4 billion. The deficit will likely widen after the current holiday.
Going abroad during Chuseok has become a yearly norm. The traditional meaning of Chuseok, the biggest family gathering in Korea for the entire year, has changed amid a rapidly aging society and the rise of single-member households. More people are using the holiday period to travel, sometimes as a solitary pursuit, instead of visiting their hometowns and families.
Tourism infrastructure has been lagging behind the changes in Koreans’ lifestyles. The government last year cracked down on 7,241 cases of illegal profiteering in the tourism sector, compared with 2,000 cases three years ago. That guarantees bad press for the country.
If the government hopes holidays can boost domestic demand, it must study consumer behavior and redesign our tourism infrastructure accordingly to keep Koreans at home during long holidays.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 3, Page 26