SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, August 8, 2019 – As the Japanese government resolved on August 2 to remove Korea from its whitelist of preferential trading partners and tightened rules on the export of materials to Korea, the boiling antagonism is being worsened between the two neighboring countries.
More and more Koreans are voluntarily boycotting trips to Japan and there are concerns that Japanese tourists visiting Korea are also expected to decrease. To tackle this problem, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Seoul Tourism Organization announced their measures to prevent a possible sluggish tourism market and minimize damages to the market.
Following Japan’s unjust economic retribution, the cancellation of tour packages to Japan has rapidly increased by 25.7 percent in July, and the reservation of them between August and September has been also sharply dropped by 59.5 percent compared to the previous year, which is seriously damaging the outbound travel market (Korea Association of Travel Agencies, July 1 to July 26).
Between January and June this year, the number of Japanese tourists to South Korea increased by 26.6 percent to 1.65 million with the same period of the previous year. In July, it seemed to have been largely unaffected in the face of the current conflict between South Korea and Japan. However, given the recent situations that there are growing media reports about Korea’s anti-Japanese movements in Japan and Japanese Foreign Ministry issued a warning Japanese people against travel to Korea, the number of Japanese visitors to Korea after September is expected to decrease.
The measures announced this time by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to boost the tourism in Seoul are: ① to actively attract Chinese tourists to Seoul with the improved relations between Korea and China; ② to diversify the tourism market through strategic global marketing activities; ③ to stage aggressive tourism marketing activities combined with mega events to be held in Seoul, such as the 100th National Sports Festival; and ④ to provide small tourism businesses with special financial support without collateral to minimize their financial difficulties.
① Actively attracting Chinese tourists to Seoul with the improved relations between Korea and China
With the recent improvement in relations between South Korea and China, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will focus on the Chinese market to boost the tourism industry in Seoul. It plans to activate exchange and cooperation projects in the tourism sector with China’s provincial governments including Hunan Province, Henan Province and Huangshan City. In particular, it will conduct mutual city promotion activities with the Hunan Province by using each city’s own medium of publicity. It will also actively prepare measures for cooperation in tourism with China in connection with the “Fourth General Meeting of the Seoul-Beijing Integration Committee” scheduled to be held in April 2020.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government also plans to actively stage systematic tourism marketing activities to attract Chinese tourists. Starting from upcoming September, it will carry out viral marketing activities through Wanghong, or Chinese internet celebrities, and idol stars, promoting Seoul’s diverse tourism contents. In addition, it will run the “Welcome Week” in autumn from September 27 to October 6 with C-trip, China’s largest online travel agency. In November, the Seoul Tourism Promotion and Experience Hall will be set up in Guangzhou, China, to conduct local promotions.
Besides, the city government will propose a plan to expand the electronic visa system to individual tourists. Currently e-Visa system is available only for tourist groups.
② Diversifying the tourism market through strategic global marketing activities
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will also make an effort to improve the structure of the Seoul tourism industry by diversifying the market. Currently, Chinese and Japanese tourists account for more than 50 percent of the Korean tourism market. Seoul will continuously promote the attractiveness of Seoul in emerging markets such as Vietnam and Malaysia as well as potential markets in Europe and Americas through local broadcasting media and promotions. Also, it will pursue strategic global marketing activities in cooperation with international cities and companies.
According to the city’s plan, promotional videos of Seoul tourism featuring K-pop stars, such as BTS, will be aired on global media, and diverse exhibitions and event promotions on Seoul tourism will be held in Vietnam (September 3 to 7), Malaysia (September 20 to 22), and Taiwan (November). In November, Seoul will run the “Seoul Week” jointly with international cities including New York and companies to promote Seoul.
③ Staging aggressive tourism marketing activities combined with mega events to be held in Seoul, such as the 100th National Sports Festival
To revitalize inbound tourism of Korea, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will actively push for tourism marketing activities linked to mega events taking place in Seoul. First of all, some of the tickets for the opening ceremony of the 100th National Sports Festival and the 39th Sports Festival for the Disabled to be held on October 4 will be distributed to major travel agencies. In a bid to attract foreign tourist groups, it will develop travel programs in connection with the opening ceremony featuring global hallyu stars.
Seoul will also push forward for Seoul tourism with electrically powered Formula E championship “2020 SEOUL E-PRIX” that is slated to take place in Jamsil, Seoul, in May 2020. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will operate the Welcome Week from April 25 to May 3, 2020 for international tourists considering the holiday seasons of Korea, China and Japan*, and make a comprehensive plan to promote tourism in Seoul in connection with the “2020 SEOUL E-PRIX.”
* Korea: Birthday on April 30, May Day on May 1
* Japan: Golden Week from April 29 to May 6
* China: Labor Day from May 1 to 3
④ Providing small tourism businesses with special financial support without collateral to minimize their financial difficulties
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has come up with measures to minimize damage to the tourism industry caused by a decrease in tourists following the Japanese government’s export restrictions. First of all, it will provide financial support to small-sized inbound and outbound tourism businesses facing closure due to severe financial difficulties with a special guarantee of 50 million won without collateral.
It plans to create a separate information page for them at the website of the Seoul Tourism Association and publicize the Special Financial Assistance Guarantee System for Small Travel Operators” which utilizes the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Tourism Development Fund totaling 30 billion won.
In addition to these strategies, the Seoul Metropolitan Government maintains close cooperative relations with the central government bodies including the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and also with the Korea Tourism Organization, the Seoul Tourism Organization and the Seoul Tourism Association. While operating an consulting center to hear about difficulties in the tourism industry in cooperation with the Seoul Tourism Association, it is closely monitoring trends in Japan through cooperative travel agencies in Japan, such as JTB and Hankyu Travel International.