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Rebound in Chinese travel to S.Korea depends on action on THAAD By Shen Weiduo Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/9 22:43:40 A total rebound in tourism between China and South Korea still lies in the country's attitude and real action on the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense ( THAAD ) system, experts said on Monday. The increase in inbound tourists hasn't brought back the country's consumption and services industry as expected, though Chinese tourists have been gradually returning to South Korea recently, domestic news site cankaoxiaoxi.com reported, citing South Korean media reports. Retail sales in South Korea decreased by 0.9 percent and 1.0 percent in April and May, respectively, showing a drop in two straight months, according to the report. However, Chinese mainland tourists in South Korea reached 370,222 in May this year, an increase of 46.1 percent compared with last year, though the number of tourists traveling to the country in group tours remained low at 13,840, according to data from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO). Data provided by online travel platform Mafengwo.com on Monday also showed that in the first half of 2018, search popularity for South Korea on its platform saw a gradual increase. Zhang Huizhi, vice dean of the Northeast Asian Studies College at Jilin University, told the Global Times Monday that despite the gradual increase of Chinese individual tourists, the number of group tours still remains low, greatly hindering the sales performance in some big shopping malls that have been mainly driven by group tourist visits. After South Korean President Moon Jae-in 's visit to China last year, media reports said that domestic travel agencies had resumed selling South Korean tour packages. However, travel agencies that the Global Times contacted Monday said they were still reluctant to reopen the services out of an "obscure situation." "We have opened registration for a few tour packages to South Korea for August with caution recently, but will not consider organizing more until signs show that South Korea will not 'initiate anything'," a sales manager at a Beijing-based travel agency, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Global Times on Monday. "The drop in retail sales might also show the decreasing appeal of South Korean products to Chinese people amid rising competition from its counterparts such as Japan and European countries, to which many domestic tourists turned during last year's ban," Zhang said. In the first six months of 2018, average per capita consumption by Chinese tourists in South Korea was only 8,013 yuan ($1,212), while spending in Japan, the UK and France averaged 12,754 yuan, 20,156 yuan and 19,637 yuan, respectively, data from Mafengwo.com showed. "Chinese tourists will 'vote with their feet' when choosing tourist destinations, and whether the tourism connection will flourish again still largely depends on South Korea's attitude and real action," said Jiang Yiyi, director of international tourism development at the Beijing-based China Tourism Academy.
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Earlier the same month, authorities in the port city of Dalian sent out a notice to booking companies that only 4,000 people in the entire city of several million are allowed on Japanese group tours between October and December. That directive would cut the number of tourists from Dalian in half. "Japan accounts for 70%" of sales, said one travel agent in the city. "Our business is going to suffer." Restrictions have also been reported at Harbin, Tonghua, Shenyang, Urumqi, Zhengzhou, Yantai, Qingdao, Weifang, Wuxi, Fuzhou, Zhangzhou and Chongqing. An increasing number of tourists holding fake passports have vanished once entering Japan, becoming unauthorized foreign workers, according to travel industry insiders from Fujian Province and elsewhere. Domestic authorities are apparently issuing travel caps to stem the tide. Officials also have other tools at their disposal. "Authorities levy heavy fines whenever a traveler disappears in Japan," said a representative at a Shandong Province travel agency. "We require Japan-bound travelers to pay a security deposit of nearly 2.6 million yen ($23,080) per person." Such a hefty sum would of course cut the number of willing tourists. "The travel limit will not be lifted before the end of the year," predicted the same source, which would only worsen the impact.
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