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Shops worried over decline of Japanese tourists

Nov 17, 2009

Natsumi Ishikawa, 25, visited Korea on a three-day trip from Saturday to Monday.

She was shopping for cosmetics in Myeong-dong, one of the most popular tourist spots, Monday. She was mostly satisfied with her visit here, but her parents worried about her safety.

"My parents told me about the fire at a shooting range in Busan when I called them Sunday," Ishikawa told The Korea Times.

"They might have stopped me from coming to Korea if the fire had occurred before I booked my flight."

Japanese tourists who responded to a street interview Monday morning in Myeongdong simply said that they were unaware of the fire.

Yuki Koshidaka, 33, said "I have not heard about the fire."

Chinese tourists also were not visibly worried by the Busan fire.

"I did not know about the fire," said Alan Chan, 54, from Hong Kong. He arrived in Seoul Sunday with his wife and was shopping on Monday.

However, travel agencies are worried about future consequences of the shooting gallery tragedy.

A salesclerk from a store carrying cosmetic brand Nature Republic, located in the center of Myeong-dong said, "Most of our customers are Japanese or Chinese and the number of buyers did not fall from the average."

"No guests have cancelled their reservations this weekend due to the fire," said a staff member of the Seoul Royal Hotel in Myeong-dong. "However, we are watching for any repercussions following the incident."

Seven Japanese tourists were killed in a fire at an indoor shooting gallery in Busan Saturday and the tourism industry is concerned about its effects. Japanese tourists make up the largest share of foreign visitors to Korea.

According to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), 5.8 million tourists visited Korea by September and 2.3 million or 40 percent of them were Japanese. The number of Japanese travelers increased a lot last year due to the stronger yen to some 30 percent and the growth rate continued this year despite the spread of influenza A.

The KTO aims to draw 7.5 million visitors this year and is anxious about the effect the Busan fire will have.

Shops worried over decline of Japanese tourists
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