Korea is one of the least attractive countries for tourism, but the average five-star hotel rate is one of the highest among Asian countries, Rep. Choi Gu-sik of the Grand National Party (GNP) said Tuesday.

Korea ranked seventh among eight Asian countries in the ranking of attractive tourist spots, according to an opinion survey conducted by the Korea Tourism Organization.

In the poll of 7,000 foreigners aged between 18 and 64 who are familiar with the country, Japan ranked first, Singapore and Thailand joint second, followed by Hong Kong, China and Malaysia.

Choi urged the tourism organization to develop “things foreigners can enjoy in Korea” and promote cheap local accommodation they can use as a tourism strategy.

“People are seeking to have fun in their lives. Governments are trying to attract foreign tourists as they perceive the tourism sector as a vehicle that can attract foreign investment,” Choi said.

The lawmaker said the government should work together with the organization to map out an effective tourism promotion plan as well as developing items that can attract foreigners.

A separate KOTRA survey said the average five-star hotel rate is the second highest following Hong Kong.

Choi pointed out that expensive accommodation rates are a stumbling block to tourism promotion.

According to a government report, the number of foreign tourists having visited Korea from January to November in 2007 was approximately 5,895,000.

Koreans having traveled to foreign countries over the same time period doubled the figure, marking 12,243,000, it said.

The widening inbound and outbound tourist gap posed a challenge for policymakers as it contributed to an increasing tourism deficit.

Earlier this year, President Lee Myung-bak said the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism should hammer out plans to attract more foreigners, saying the tourism industry is one of alternative engines for growth along with the environment.

Lee pledged to promote culture and medical tourism during his term to reduce the widening tourism deficit.