The South Korean governments said on 25 December that it would relax entry and visa requirements and also intensify its services in English language and improve infrastructure to attract and expand further foreign tourists’ inflow.
A national strategic meeting, which was presided by Lee Nak-yon, Prime Minister, in Seoul, it was agreed that the administration comprising 14 ministries will take a lead and organize a KRW150 billion ($139.5 million) fund to make better, bigger and more accessible the country to its locals as well as foreign nationals during the next four to five years.
By 2022, the country seeks to earn $930 million from tourism, an increase $465 million estimated in 2017 year-end.
Lee was quoted by The Korea Times as saying that they would be witnessing a record tourism service shortfall in 2017. He added that country would be facing tougher times ahead if this continues.
Every elected government has emphasized the importance of promoting tourism with similar extravagant schemes to develop tourism by launching travel coupons, public transportation discounts, cultural and family days and allowing people to leave office ahead of schedule on Fridays during the last several years.
But progress was hardly made in promoting tourism because average populace had restricted their expenditure and cut short their days vacationing every year.
The average number of days for vacation taken by salaried workers in 2016 was nine. If the weekends were excluded, it would be cut short to five days. The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) figures reveal that after Mexicans, Koreans put in the longest hours at work globally. The Korean government is planning to raise the number of vacation days to 12.
Since they have a limited vacation time, many Koreans choose to go abroad over spending time in their home country, leading the service sector to touch a record deficit of $3.5 billion in October 2016.
The central bank of South Korea said that in addition, the inflow of Chinese tourists has decreased owing to a conflict over the antimissile defence system. Missile threats from North Korea were also responsible for the record shortfall.
Moreover, along with the paucity of services and infrastructure in English, the country lacks an adequate number of attractions to lure visitors.
Plans are, however, afoot to develop new attractions for tourists. The government plans to tap the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and K-pop to attract more foreign tourist numbers, besides China, from countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Japan.
It is believed that Korea may follow in the footsteps of Japan whose proactive tourism policies resulted in the rise of foreign tourists due to its robust services infrastructure combined with a solid yen.
But the Prime Minister’s Office, however, took into consideration Japan’s disadvantages, as that country was not able to match the growing demand for hospitality. To top it, Japan saw many of its attractions being spoilt as many tourists entered its territory.
If you are looking to travel to South Korea, get in touch with Y-Axis, a reputed firm for immigration services, to apply for a tourist visa.