Chinese tourism connections with South Korea look dim for the Chinese Spring Festival later this month, with tours to South Korean destinations still suspended by China's leading travel agencies.
The suspension persists even though Chinese and South Korean officials formally announced a recovery of bilateral relations on October 31, 2017.
Customer service employees from online Chinese travel platforms such as Ctrip, Tuniu and fliggy.com said South Korean tour packages were still unavailable when contacted by the Global Times on Sunday. They also claimed that they had not been informed when the services would be open again.
Tourism participants in South Korea were "deeply concerned" about the situation, since the number of Chinese tourists has seen no sign of an increase with the approach of the Chinese Spring Festival, which runs from February 15 to 21, media reports said.
It is estimated that during this year's holiday, only 80,000 to 92,000 Chinese tourists will go to South Korea, which would be down about 45 percent from 2017, news site cankaoxiaoxi.com reported on Sunday, citing the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Tourism Organization.
South Korea has been trying to win back Chinese tourists since last November, with a series of activities targeted at Chinese travelers. One move was an announcement from South Korea's justice ministry on November 30, 2017, saying that a special no-visa entry would be offered to Chinese tourists during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
The announcement said that Chinese citizens who had purchased entry tickets to the games through designated Chinese travel agencies, and with frequent travel records in the past five years, could enjoy a 15-day visa-free stay in South Korea.
The organizing committee expected about 200,000 Chinese tourists to visit the city, but only 69.7 percent of the tickets had been sold as of January 19, said the cankaoxiaoxi.com report.
Tourism interaction between the two countries began to decrease after South Korea agreed to let the U.S. deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system on July 8, 2016.