Global travelers enthralled with the story of Mozart flock to Salzburg, Austria, while people visit Liverpool in the United Kingdom in search of any trace of The Beatles. Now symbols of their respective cities, Mozart and The Beatles have significantly contributed to raising the international status of their cities as well as their national competitiveness.
Seoul, the capital city of Korea, is a treasure trove of historical sites, stories of warm-hearted people, and trendy shopping destinations, and its unique history and the culture and lifestyles of its citizens are enhancing its competitiveness as tourist destination on the international stage.
As a result of hallyu, the Korean Wave, a total of 11.42 million foreign tourists visited Seoul in 2014. And now that the city’s attractions and charm are back in the limelight, Seoul is expecting to welcome 20 million visitors on a yearly basis. Overflowing with original creative and cultural content and unique sights, Seoul has gained increasing appeal as a sustainable tourist destination. It is becoming a city that foreign visitors long to see again.
In front of Exit 1 of Itaewon Subway Station, which is a popular destination among foreign visitors, is a structure featuring the figure of a person standing and holding the handle of a huge piece of luggage—the kind that was sold throughout Itaewon in the 1980s. This eye-catching structure is in fact a tourist information office, which also serves as a lamppost at night.
The university district in Sinchon is a place of nostalgia and romance among former university students who stayed here in 1970s and 80s, and is a popular hang-out for teenagers and 20-somethings. The red “Play Bus” located in front of Hyundai U-Plex Department Store is an important tourist attraction, where visitors can listen to various songs and types of music from the old days in a DJ box inside the bus.
A new tourism trend in Seoul is that there are more and more small groups of independent tourists coming to enjoy the sights. With a tourist guide map in their hands, these visitors take public transportation and seek out every nook and cranny of Seoul’s alleyways, experiencing the city in every possible way—by sight, touch, scent, taste, and feel.
Therefore, Seoul Metropolitan Government has developed tourist routes based on different themes to assist any such first-time travelers to the city. It posts recommended various routes, which include Seoul’s “slow” shopping destinations, various festivals, and the Avengers filming location, on its website and helps visitors create their own tour courses.
For visitors who want to learn about Seoul’s long history and culture, the “Guided Seoul City Walking Tour” is highly recommended. It features Seoul Cultural Tourism Volunteer Guides, fluent in English, Chinese, and Japanese, who take visitors on a guided tour of Seoul’s popular destinations. This Walking Tour program offers 25 different tour courses, which include Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Namsan Rampart (City Wall), Seonggyungwan National Academy, and Seoul City Hall. The tours, all of which are free of charge, may be booked in advance via the Internet or mobile application (dobo.visitseoul.net).
Seoul Metropolitan Government is working to increase the number of accommodations for foreign tourists. So far, it has constructed numerous budget hotels and is expanding the availability of accommodation facilities that offer special experiences for visitors through programs such as International Tourism City Stays, where foreign visitors can rent rooms in the homes of Korean families, and hanok and temple stay programs, providing tourists with experiences of Korean culture and opportunities to communicate with more Korean people during their stay in Seoul.
The score of tourist information centers located across the city offer not only information on nearby sites and tourism resources but also assistance to resolve any inconveniences tourists may experience during their stay in the city. There are also people dressed in red patrolling the streets to offer help to foreign visitors, known as the “Patrolling Tourist Information Guides.” Besides tourism information, they can also offer assistance in emergency situations.
Foreign visitors who are overcharged, or otherwise taken advantage of, are eligible to receive compensation upon the approval of a deliberation committee. At major tourist sites in Seoul, the Korea Tourist Police and Honorary Tourist Sheriffs are always on hand to take note of any inconveniences or complaints that foreign visitors may have.
Today, many people enjoy meeting new people in new cities and experiencing new cultures
Recognizing this, Seoul Metropolitan Government is preparing to welcome more foreign visitors of diverse ethnicities from a greater number of countries and is fully committed to ensuring that they leave Seoul with unforgettable memories by developing the city as an ideal and convenient travel destination, making it a city everyone wants to see again.
By offering an environment where visitors from abroad can enjoy stimulating experiences, undiminished by the inconveniences of typical tourist spots, Seoul is emerging as a major global tourist destination.