Seoul announces plan to boost tourism to city

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Seoul announces plan to boost tourism to city

As local travel agencies reel from the new coronavirus outbreak, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced Friday a three-step package to revitalize the Korean capital’s tourism industry by providing special loans, creating new travel programs based on the Academy-winning film “Parasite” - and having the Seoul mayor personally visit China.

In a press release introducing the city government’s countermeasures against the coronavirus, which has so far infected 28 people in Korea, Seoul said the outbreak was causing massive financial losses for local travel agencies as more Chinese people cancel their visits to Seoul and Koreans cancel their trips to China.

Citing a survey from the Korea Association of Travel Agents, the city office said 12 major travel agencies here have reported 36.4 billion won ($30.8 million) worth of damages from Jan. 23 to Feb. 3 due to the canceled visits to and from China, adding that the figure was expected to grow as the virus continues to spread.

As a result, tour agencies are reducing their working hours and offering unpaid leave and voluntary retirement, the office continued. The dwindling number of tourists was also said to be affecting the local hotel business and international conferences, the latter of which are mostly being canceled or postponed.

To help revive the city’s tour industry, in the first step from this month to March, Seoul said it would provide special loans to travel agencies, offer temporary jobs in the public sector for those from the tour industry who are out of work due to the outbreak, and offer sponsorship funds to international conference hosts.

Online, Seoul said it would promote the safety of the Korean capital on its social media accounts in an effort to lure tourists from foreign countries.

For the second step, which will be carried out from March to June, Seoul vowed to make a tour package inspired by the Korean Oscar-winning film “Parasite,” which will invite tourists to various sites from the movie.

At the Seoul International Tourism Industry Fair, set to take place in May, the city said it would seize every chance to advertise Korean tourism.

When the coronavirus outbreak ebbs in China, the city government said it would push for a visit by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon to the country, where he will hopefully meet the mayor of Beijing and Chinese tour agents, as well as hold a briefing about travel in Seoul.

In the third and last step from June onward, Seoul said it would search for new markets by organizing briefings in various countries around the world, running a Seoul tour booth at K-pop concerts and improving social infrastructure for Muslim visitors.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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