Learning from tourism in JapanLast month, more than 800,000 Korean tourists visited Japan, 120,000 more than December 2017 and 180,000 more than January 2017. In contrast, the number of Japanese visitors to Korea continues to decline. In December 2017, 190,000 Japanese visited Korea, 5,000 less than the same month in the previous year. Soon, the difference between Korean and Japanese tourists visiting the other country will be four times.
Of course, visiting other countries is nothing to be blamed for. Scholars say that those who go overseas are more likely to take domestic trips and can boost domestic tourism.
The issue is how Korea’s tourism industry can receive more guests. Until five or six years ago, Japanese tourists were the main guests of the Korean tourism market, and diplomatic issues such as nuclear tension and the comfort women controversy are mentioned as causes for a shift. However, there is more to the latest decline.
Korea hosted the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, but it is hard to feel festivity in Seoul. The Gwanghwamun downtown streets are not crowded in the midst of brutal cold. The tourist center of Myeongdong is full of Chinese “daigou” shoppers (buying products for friends back home) rather than tourists. Foreigners coming to see the Olympics may have stopped by or stayed in Seoul, but it is worthy to ruminate on what we have prepared for them.
I cannot help asking the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism what it has done. Taking a cue from Japan’s case, the prime minister chaired the national tourism strategy meeting last year, but there has not been much progress since the first meeting. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched the tourism promotion cabinet meeting for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and has been promoting the Yokoso Japan project since 2003.
The private sector has also contributed. There has been an effort to move from “Japan’s charms to Japan’s power,” and Japan’s tourism industry has been thriving. It is about time to learn from Japan.
*An industry news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo