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MCST Implementing Plan for 20 Million Tourists to Korea
Tourist-friendly Policies
MCST Implementing Plan for 20 Million Tourists to Korea
  • By matthew
  • September 3, 2015, 07:15
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Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism International Tourism Division Director Kim Geun-ho.
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism International Tourism Division Director Kim Geun-ho.


Kim Geun-ho is the director of the International Tourism Division at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Business Korea spoke with him during these days of decreased tourism income to ask about what his division was doing to return to the status growth of tourism growth. His answers provided insights into a future where Korea sees 20 million tourists, or more, each year.

How many tourists visited Korea last year, and how do you estimate its economic ripple effects?

[[{"fid":"12624","view_mode":"body_image_right","fields":{"format":"body_image_right","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Tourists visit the Dongdaemun shopping area in downtown Seoul.","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Tourists visit the Dongdaemun shopping area in downtown Seoul.","height":300,"width":450,"class":"media-element file-body-image-right"}}]]A total of 14.2 million foreign tourists visited South Korea last year, up 16.7 percent from a year earlier. Accordingly, its tourism revenue is estimated at nearly US$18 billion won [21.19 trillion won], up 24.4 percent from a year ago. The tourism market is constantly growing, as an increasing number of Chinese tourists are visiting Korea, and more and more visitors from Southeast Asia are coming to Korea due to Hallyu, or the Korean Wave.

How much has Korea’s tourism industry been affected by the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in May this year, and when do you think it will be normalized again? Also, what kind of measures do you have in place to do so?

The tourism industry in Korea had maintained a monthly average growth of 11 percent until May, compared to last year. As the figure decreased in June and July due to the emergence of MERS, however, the number of foreign tourists visiting Korea stood at 7.3 million until July, down 8.5 percent from last year.

Our ministry has been actively taking measures to reinvigorate the market, and the industry is posting an increase in new reservations. With this positive trend, Korea’s tourism industry is expected to recover to the same level of the previous year by Sept.

[[{"fid":"12625","view_mode":"body_image_left","fields":{"format":"body_image_left","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Tourists enjoy learning how to make kimchi.","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Tourists enjoy learning how to make kimchi.","height":283,"width":450,"class":"media-element file-body-image-left"}}]]In order to do so, the government has been making every effort to attract Chinese tourists that Korea’s tourism industry heavily depends on. However, some still say that there is no infrastructure enough to accommodate them. It seems that this is a time to think about the qualitative development as well as the quantitative growth. Please tell us what kind of measures you have been taking and what the future plans are.

Since China is one of the fastestgrowing markets in the world, it is true that it needs some qualitative improvements due to rapid growth. So, we have been operating the system to renew the licenses of travel agencies in charge of Chinese tourists since 2013. Also, we are pushing various policies such as abolishing a system to sell foreigners-only souvenirs in order to improve market distortion, cracking down on relevant disorderliness, and training tourist guides and interpreters.

Moreover, the government will share market information with the Chinese government and discuss joint counterplans, running a working-level consultative body. It is also planning to closely cooperate in a bid to enhance the quality of tourism products in the two countries.

In addition to this, we are developing tailored tourism products so that foreign tourists, including Chinese tourists, can see and learn more about Korea using Big Data, and promoting the convergence tourism industry, including the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions, Hallyu and medical care, as part of the strategy for qualitative growth in the tourism industry.

In particular, the ministry will operate a tourism content development council to develop customized products that suit the taste of tourists, including Hallyu, higher-value-added and interactive content, and continuously expand attractive tourism content for them.

Furthermore, we plan to operate a support system to promote the MICE industry, such as international conferences and incentive travel, which has a great ripple effect as a related industry, to carry out marketing campaigns at home and abroad, create a business base including training a professional workforce and industrial statistics, to create the Hallyu tourism industry base, and develop products by constructing K-Pop concert halls and complex cultural facilities, and to support the convergence tourism industry, such as the expansion of marketing campaigns to attract higher-value-added medical tourists.

The tourism industry expects that the number of foreign tourists will reach 20 million in 2017. For sustainable growth through revisits, we need full-fledged hardware but need to work more on improving software, like services. It seems that the government’s monitoring and guidance are needed to do this.

[[{"fid":"12626","view_mode":"body_image_right","fields":{"format":"body_image_right","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Tourists wearing patchwork Hanbok, Korean traditional dress, with painted faces dance at a cultural event.","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Tourists wearing patchwork Hanbok, Korean traditional dress, with painted faces dance at a cultural event.","height":283,"width":450,"class":"media-element file-body-image-right"}}]]Our ministry has been implementing the policies to expand foreign tourist attractions by improving the quality for the Chinese market and diversifying the market, and to intensively foster the convergence tourism industry, including MICE and Hallyu. Through this, we have recently seen a high growth rate with more than 10 percent every year. Although tourist arrivals in South Korea have plunged due to the MERS outbreak, we are planning to pursue various policies more actively in a bid to accomplish the goal of 20 million foreign tourist arrivals.

Also, we will proceed with a “Visit Korea Years 2016 to 2018” project, connecting with the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, an international event to improve services focusing on tourism, such as accommodations, transportation and food, in order to strengthen Korea’s tourism industry abilities. To create a foundation to promote the project in earnest, we are carrying out “Friendly Korea” campaigns, providing warm hospitality service education programs, and holding joint promotions with private firms this year. Moreover, we will form a K-Smile campaign headquarters in order to raise the nationwide consciousness of kindness and keep creating a welcoming atmosphere for foreign tourists.