Number of South Korean visitors soars 908% in Jan.

2024-02-27 09:06:34Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Since the full resumption of China's inbound tourism in 2023, the number of overseas tourists visiting China has grown rapidly. Analysts said the boom reflected China's recently implemented measures that helped simplify procedures for overseas tourists, including easing visa requirements, as well as improved travel products, which shows that China continues to accelerate its opening-up to the outside world.

As one of the latest examples, the number of South Korean tourists traveling to China in January exceeded 140,000, up 908 percent year-on-year, China Media Group (CMG) reported on Monday.

A retiree surnamed Lee from South Korea's Gimhae city told the Global Times on Monday that she is planning to travel to Zhangjiajie in Central China's Hunan Province and Yunnan Province in Southwest China with her husband, children and in-laws.

Lee said that her family is hesitating about whether to go with a tour group or a free tour, noting that there are many group tours to Zhangjiajie offered by South Korean travel agencies.

South Korea's major travel agencies are actively planning tourism products for China. Besides Zhangjiajie, which is a traditional popular destination among South Korean tourists, travel packages to the island province of Hainan have attracted particular attention after the recent visa-free entry policy in South China's Hainan, according to CMG.

To cope with personnel exchanges between China and South Korea and meet the travel demand of South Koreans, various Korean airlines have been resuming previously suspended routes, including Incheon to Zhengzhou in Central China's Henan Province, and Busan to Xi'an in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

As of December, the number of weekly flights between China and South Korea was 879, which was 77 percent of the pre-epidemic level in 2019, Korean Air told the Global Times on Monday.

The South Korean airline itself has resumed operations on 20 routes with 16 cities in the Chinese mainland, with 156 weekly flights - about 70 percent of the pre-epidemic level, Korean Air said.

"China has always been our key market, and we will resume serving the cities of Zhengzhou and Zhangjiajie as soon as possible, and increase flight frequencies on some routes. We predict that route resumptions between China and Korea will be active in 2024," Korean Air said.

China Tourism Academy said in a recent report that it remains optimistic about China's inbound tourism market, which is expected to recover to 50 percent of that in 2019 - the pre-pandemic level.

Such a recovery emerged during the recent Spring Festival holidays, with about 3.23 million inbound tourist trips made, close to the level of the same period in 2019, according to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The number of tickets booked for inbound tourism during the Spring Festival break increased by more than 10 times compared with 2019 on domestic online travel platform

The main source countries were Japan, the US, South Korea, Australia, the UK, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Thailand and Germany, according to a report sent from to the Global Times.

The effect of China's visa-free policy has been evident, as the number of tourists from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries that were newly exempted from travel visas has increased significantly. The total number of inbound travel bookings from these countries during the Spring Festival holidays doubled compared with the same period in 2019, said

The significant progress in visa facilitation will continue to instill confidence in Chinese and overseas tourists, Yang Jinsong, director of the institute of international tourism development and associate researcher at the China Tourism Academy (CTA), told the Global Times.

"China should continue to optimize the inbound tourism policy by expanding the scope of visa-free countries, simplifying visa procedures, improving visa application efficiency, and providing a more convenient and friendly entry environment for overseas tourists," Yang said.

Yang also called for strengthened tourism cooperation with other countries.

However, analysts noted that inbound tourism is still in a gradual recovery after the three-year closure due to the pandemic. The global tourism supply chain needs to be repaired.

In 2019, China's travel agencies handled 18.3 million inbound tourist arrivals, with foreigners spending $77.1 billion, according to statistics from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

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