Posted February. 23, 2009 08:11,
Tourist businesses in Seoul and Busan are scrambling to attract Japanese visitors, with more restaurants providing menus specifically for Japanese and hiring staff fluent in Japanese.
A strong yen has led Japanese tourists to come to Korea en masse. Accordingly, sales at department stores, hotels, and restaurants have soared thanks to Japanese customers.
According to the Justice Ministry yesterday, a combined 237,192 Japanese travelers came to Korea last month, accounting for 44 percent of foreign travelers in the month and up 55.6 percent from a year ago.
○ The biggest beneficiaries
Lotte Department Store in downtown Seoul said yesterday that Japanese tourists purchased 9.1 billion won (six million U.S. dollars) worth of goods last month, with 6.5 billion won (4.3 million dollars) spent on luxury goods. The sum accounted for seven percent of the stores revenue last month.
Japanese customers bought last month a large amount of goods at Shinsegae Department Store in Seoul, with their purchases making up 6.3 percent of revenue.
High-end hotels are also enjoying a boom, with an occupancy rate of more than 90 percent and Japanese accounting for half of their guests.
Japanese at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul comprise 64 percent of the hotels guests. Japanese travelers are also taking up 40 percent of the rooms at the Westin Chosun Seoul.
The number of Japanese tourists began soaring late last year. Paradise Hotel Busan saw sales rise more than 30 percent, which allowed the hotel to pay its staff a 100-percent bonus. Sales at Busan Lotte Hotel also grew 20 percent and those of its duty free shop more than doubled.
Restaurants are also benefiting from Japanese customers. Eateries whose names are on pamphlets included in tourist information desks in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul, serve more Japanese than Koreans.
One Myeong-dong restaurant renowned for traditional Korean noodles is especially popular among Japanese customers. They start streaming into the restaurant as soon as it opens its door at 10 a.m. and occupy 50 percent of the tables.
Lee Sang-yeol, who runs a samgyetang (traditional Korean chicken soup) restaurant, said, The Japanese account for more than half of my customers and contribute 70 percent of revenue.
Certain restaurants in Seoul and Busan have changed recipes to please the Japanese palate by reducing the amount of hot pepper and salt and adding more sugar.
○ Japanese-language services
Department stores have also stepped up services to offer more convenience to Japanese customers, broadcasting announcements in Japanese and placing Japanese guidebooks around escalators.
Lotte Department Store has placed Japanese interpreters at information desks and a phone interpretation service for stores that lack Japanese speakers.
Shinsegae has a similar system in which some 10 employees fluent in Japanese provide interpretation service.
A restaurant in southern Seoul is recruiting employees who can speak Japanese in the wake of a rise in Japanese customers.
Certain sectors are seeking to draw more Japanese customers by aligning with companies that sell travel packages and placing ads in guidebooks.
A worker at a travel agency said, More massage parlors and cosmetic surgery clinics are inquiring about the development of tour packages targeting Japanese or advertising in guidebooks.