South Korea is more popular than ever among Chinese tourists.
According to the China National Tourism Administration, 6.1 million Chinese travelers visited South Korea last year, reports China Daily.
Figures from travel agency Ctrip also show that South Korea is now the most popular tourism destination for Chinese travelers, beating out Thailand for favorite travel destination for the first time. In fact, Ctrip saw more than 300,000 ticket, hotel, and other bookings for South Korea from Chinese tourists.
Ctrip found that group travel is still the most popular way to tour South Korea, accounting for roughly 50 percent of trips, though independent travel to Korea’s top-tier cities has grown strongly. Groups of travelers born in the 1980s accounted for nearly 60 percent of travel, while those born in the 1990s accounted for more than 20 percent. The company also found that female tourists accounted for about 70 percent of the travelers to South Korea, and travel costs ranged from 1,000 yuan to nearly 1 million yuan.
“Despite the fact that some long-distance spots, such as the United States and other European countries, are on the rise in terms of popularity among Chinese, traditional places like South Korea, Japan and Thailand are favorites among Chinese tourists, who lead the world in tourism spending,” said Vivian Hong, president of travel services company Travelzoo China.
Chinese travelers visiting neighboring Asian countries accounted for 90 percent of outbound tourists, whereas Oceana accounted for 5 percent, Europe 3 percent, and the United States and Africa accounting for 1 percent each.
The popularity of South Korea for Chinese tourists is no surprise. Seoul has become a shopping destination to rival Hong Kong in its own right, and Chinese spending in South Korea is expected to top US$29 billion by 2020. The favorite product categories among Chinese consumers are cosmetics and skincare products and duty-free items.
In fact, the South Korean government attributes the country’s popularity for Chinese travelers — trips rose 46 percent last year compared to 2013 — to South Korean pop culture’s influence in China and the appreciation of the Chinese yuan. Last year, South Korea issued over 3.31 million visas to Chinese residents with several hundred thousand more visiting the visa-free Jeju.
The most popular travel destinations in South Korea for Chinese are Seoul, Jeju, Busan, and Gangwon province, which is known for its skiing, hot springs, and seaside resorts. Because of its visa-free policy, Jeju, which is Korea’s largest island, has long been a favorite of Chinese tourists.
image credit: glenn forbes