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Title China allows group tours to Korea after more than 6 years of restrictions
  • Korea SIM card (ip:)
  • 2023-09-07 16:32:52
  • Views 142

China allows group tours to Korea after more than 6 years of restrictions

By Lee Hae-rin

China has lifted its ban on group tours to Korea after more than six years of unofficial and official sanctions, signaling the return of Chinese travelers, who used to make up the largest portion of visitors to Korea. The sudden relaxation of travel restrictions will likely lead to a boost in Korea's post-pandemic tourism industry.

China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced, Thursday, that the mainland's central government will allow group travel to 78 countries including Korea, Japan and the U.S. starting that day, following the global easing trend of COVID-19.

This is an addition to China's first lifting of the ban in January on group tours to 20 countries since closing down its borders due to the pandemic, and the second one in March to 40 countries, including Nepal, Vietnam, Iran, Jordan, France, Spain and Brazil.

Although China's official ban on group tours started in January 2020, in line with the COVID-19 outbreak, it unofficially began in March 2017 in what is believed to be a retaliatory measure against the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) on Korean soil. Group tours resumed to some parts of China in December 2017, but mostly in limited cases.

This ban has dealt a blow to Korea's tourism industry due to its heavy reliance on Chinese visitors.

Before the ban, 8.06 million Chinese tourists visited Korea in 2016, making up nearly half of the 17 million foreign visitors that year, according to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).

However, China's figure in relation to Korea's inbound travel dramatically dropped to 4.17 million in 2017 (39.5 percent), 4.79 million in 2018 (38.7 percent) and 6.02 million in 2019 (42 percent).

The KTO's latest data indicates that during the first half of this year, only 546,393 Chinese tourists visited Korea, ranking second next to Japanese travelers and making up a mere 12.3 percent out of a total of 4.43 million.

In response, Korea's travel authorities welcomed China's announcement.

"Chinese travel agencies will now be able to promote group tours to Korea, which could trigger a boom in Korean tourism and have a great influence on the (Korean tourism industry's) recovery overall," Jin Jong-wha, the regional executive director of China at the KTO's Chinese branch in Beijing, said to The Korea Times.

"The resumption of Chinese group tours is expected to bring a new dynamic to the country's travel, tourism, aviation and retail industries, which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic," Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Park Bo-gyoon also said through a statement.

To mark the Visit Korea Year 2023-2024, he said the ministry will seek cooperation between private and public sectors to introduce Korea's must-see travel landmarks, including the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae, to Chinese travelers.

Ferries between the two countries will also resume operations starting Friday, the ministry said.

The ministry plans to promote inbound tourism to Chinese people via the K-Tourism Road Show and B2B consulting sessions slated for mid-September, targeting China's largest holiday season, the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6.

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