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Foreign Tourists Flood Korea, Surpassing Pre-COVID Numbers

Daniel Kim Views  

Yonhap News

The number of foreign tourists to Korea is quickly recovering to pre-COVID-19 levels, with notable surges expected during Japan’s Golden Week (April 27 to May 6) and China’s Labor Day (May 1-5). It’s anticipated that approximately 180,000 tourists from China and Japan alone will visit during these periods. To keep this positive trend, the government aims to diversify the demographics of tourists from China, Japan, and other nations, offering a range of tourism experiences.

According to announcements from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization on the 29th, approximately 3.4 million foreign tourists visited Korea between January and March of this year. March alone saw 1.5 million foreign visitors, marking the highest quarterly and monthly figures since COVID-19. Compared to 2019, the recovery rates are 88.6% quarterly and 97.1% monthly. Notably, in the final week of March, Korea welcomed 330,000 foreign tourists, achieving a recovery rate of 100.2% compared to pre-pandemic levels—a significant milestone marking complete restoration to pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

The increase in March reflects warmer weather, more things to see, such as cherry blossoms, and more travel activity due to spring break in Japan, America, and Europe. In particular, the number of visitors from Japan and the United States increased due to international events such as the opening of the U.S. Major League in Seoul last month.

Among the top 10 markets for visiting Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines have already surpassed the scale of visits compared to the same period in 2019.

Based on the first quarter, the country that visited Korea the most this year is China. The Chinese market had 1,015,000 visitors to Korea in the first quarter, breaking the 1 million mark. During the same period, 666,000 Japanese visited Korea. In March alone, Japanese tourists increased nearly twofold, from 180,000 to 340,000. On March 16, ahead of the particular game for the Major League Seoul Series opening, the daily number of Japanese visitors (13,000) was twice the first-quarter average (7,300).

The number of foreign tourists visiting Korea is anticipated to continue rising until early next month, driven by the special holidays of Japan’s Golden Week and China’s Labor Day. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism forecasts that approximately 100,000 Japanese and 80,000 Chinese visitors will grace Korea during this holiday. Notably, reservations for Jeju Island by Japanese travelers have skyrocketed by an impressive 1502.1% compared to last year, as reported by the Japanese travel agency HIS. The reservation rates for flights, cruises, and ferries are favorable, and the number of visas issued to individual tourists has surpassed the level before the pandemic.

A representative from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism said, “We will diversify the age range and gender balance and diversify tourism contents such as sports tourism and educational trips for mature markets such as China and Japan,” and “We plan to strengthen local marketing for emerging markets such as America and Europe, which are proliferating.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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