It has been found that the number of cruise tourists visiting South Korea totaled 337,737 for the first seven months of this year. The number for this year as a whole is estimated at 600,000 to 700,000 if this pace continues.
It was as large as 1.95 million last year. Such a rapid decline has to do with China’s economic retaliation that has followed THAAD deployment in South Korea. At present, Chinese account for approximately 90% of the cruise tourists visiting South Korea. The number of Chinese cruise tourists visiting South Korea exceeded 100,000 in each of January and February before dipping below 20,000.
The South Korean government is seeking for an alternative under the circumstances. The candidates include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. Last year, about four million people in East Asia enjoyed their cruise, including 2.2 million or so Chinese. In this regard, the South Korean government is looking to apply visa exemption to individual tourists as well as group cruise travelers.
However, the four countries are still not enough to take the place of China. In view of their geographical locations, most cruise travelers from the countries are likely to stop in Busan and Jeju. Their absolute size is small, too. For example, the number for next year is estimated at no more than 60,000 or so when it comes to those from Taiwan.
Still, the South Korean government cannot give up on the cruise industry. In 2016 alone, the industry had an economic effect of more than five trillion won on the South Korean economy as a whole with tourists spending no less than 2.0465 trillion won in their destination cities. In addition, it is estimated that the industry reached 3.4463 trillion won and 24,763 jobs during the same period in terms of production and employment inducement, respectively.