China’s clamp down on Korea-based tourism is perceived by many as retaliation for the upcoming Seoul-Washington deployment of a US missile defence system. As a result, the tourism industry has to cope with the substantial decrease in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals.
Last Tuesday, Korea said that it has begun the assembly of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system which coincided with the news that China has rejected the application of Korean couriers to operate chartered flights between the two nations. It is also expected that Beijing will limit scheduled flights.
Because of Beijing’s apparent anger over what it called as a “decision to infringe on its strategic interests”, China has told major travel agencies last month to refrain from selling tours to Koreans after March 15. China’s reaction is expected and it means trouble for Korea that is planning to attract 20 million foreign tourists this year. Based on statistics from Korean Tourism Organization (KTO), almost half – 8.06 million – of the 17 million foreign tourists that visited the country last year were Chinese.
Korean Tourism Organization refuses to comment on reports that Chinese tourists are cancelling their reservations and the damages inflicted to the tourism industry. While authorities have remained silent over the issue, the magnitude of the impact can be considerable.
At the Korean resort island of Jeju, one of the favourite destinations of foreign tourists, an emergency meeting was held to discuss the impact of the Chinese tourist ban. It has been reported that 420 tourist groups have cancelled their reservations to visit Jeju Island after Beijing’s action.
According to the Jeju government, most of the major China-based tourism agencies have discontinued visa and any tourism-related work that is associated with Korea. Since Korea has been removed from any tourism-related programs, it is expected that Jeju will suffer from a slump after the March 15 mass cancellations.
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