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[Op-Ed] Cheap Tour Packages

Posted August. 08, 2009 08:04,   


China is expected to become the world’s fourth-largest source of tourists going abroad around 2020, with 100 million Chinese expected to travel the globe every year. The number of Chinese tourists to Korea has skyrocketed over the past decade. Some 28,000 of them came to Korea in 1995, ranking ninth after Americans, Taiwanese, Hong Kong residents, Russians, Thais, Germans and British. However, 194,000 Chinese visited Korea in 2000 and 217,000 in the first half this year to raise their country’s ranking to third after Japan and the United States. The steep surge contributed to a rise of 26 percent in the number of foreign tourists in Korea, or 2.72 million.

The number of Chinese tourists is no longer growing, however. In a survey conducted by the Korea Tourism Organization, they unleashed their complaints: They included, “I came here in a five-day, four-night tour package for 300,000 won (244 U.S. dollars). But I couldn’t see a night view of Seoul because I had to stay at a motel in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province.”; “I had to get off the tour bus because I didn’t want to go to Unification Observatory.”; “We ate just cheap meals at ordinary restaurants instead of those in hotels.”; “Our bed sheets were dirty and there were no towels in the bathroom.”; “A tour agency forced us to buy ginseng.”

According to a survey conducted by the International Herald Leader published by China’s state-run news agency Xinhua, Chinese hate Korea the most among neighboring countries. The tourism organization`s survey also echoed a similar negative sentiment by Chinese, saying Korea is the least favored country for the Chinese to visit in Asia. If no action is taken, the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s ambitious plan to attract 12 million foreign tourists by next year will go nowhere.

Last year, 13.32 million Koreans went abroad while 6.89 million foreigners visited Korea. To stem the severe tourism imbalance, Korea must first win the hearts of Chinese tourists, beginning with quality tour packages at adequate prices. This can ultimately boost Korea’s image and bring them to Korea again. Low-quality tour packages should be immediately eliminated. The Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry must support this campaign through appropriate policies. No less important, however, is the role of the new head of the Korea Tourism Organization, the German-born Lee Cham.

Editorial Writer Yuk Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)