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Foreign tourists canceling trips to South Korea

Korean tourism hurt by Yeonpyeong crisis

Nov 29, 2010

According to Korean tour operators, an increasing number of foreign visitors are canceling trips to South Korea, following last week’s North Korean artillery attack.

Due to safety concerns, groups of Japanese students who had initially planned to come here for a field trip have decided to go somewhere else.

According to the domestic travel industry Monday, one high school in Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture recently decided to scrap a field trip planned on Dec. 2-6, following North Korea’s sudden artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island and the continued military confrontation. Other schools have and will likely follow suit.

An executive at a local travel agency catering mostly to Japanese tourists said the Japanese government has issued a travel warning for those planning to visit Korea.

“Japanese parents have become extremely concerned about what is happening here and fear future provocations from North Korea. They do not want their children to be in danger. A growing number of Chinese are also increasingly wary of the safety situation here,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) also echoed his view, saying Chinese and Japanese are canceling their visits. “Following the North’s attack, the number of Japanese and Chinese visitors dropped last week, compared to previous weeks. But those coming from Europe and North America remained largely unchanged.”

She then said if the Yeonpyeong situation returns to normal soon, it will not be difficult for the nation to achieve this year’s target of 8.5 million foreign visitors.

But hotels and other hospitality-related businesses have begun suffering from the fallout of the Yeonpyeong crisis.

One taxi driver catering to foreigners said he made one-third less last week, compared to the previous week, while a manager at a Seoul hotel said they have received several reservation cancelation calls from Japan.

“Our business has not yet been severely affected by the event. But if the military tension continues to persist, the number of guests will likely fall, resulting in lower profits” the manager said.

Concerts and other cultural events featuring non-Korean artists are being called off as they decide to alter their schedules due to the high tension.

For instance, French pianist Richard Clayderman had initially planned to hold a series of performances across the country, beginning from Dec.3. But it was pushed back to sometime in September next year.

Not only tourists, but also business people have become reluctant to visit Asia’s fourth largest economy, with many postponing their trips until the ongoing military situation comes to an end.

A drop in the number of inbound tourists and businessmen will have an unfavorable impact on airline firms, hotels and other hospitality-related businesses here amid growing concerns regarding the Korean economy in the wake of the continued debt crisis gripping the euro zone and other external negatives.

Additionally, the North’s provocation is having a negative impact on domestic businesses that highly rely on international trade. For instance, Sony, Honda Motors and other large Japanese businesses have decided not to send personnel to Korea for the time being until the ongoing military conflicts are resolved.

Korean tourism hurt by Yeonpyeong crisis
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