The Winter Olympics has given a significant boost to tourism in Korea (ROK), including arrivals from China which have seen a welcome rebound, according to the latest figures from ForwardKeys research.
In total, international arrivals in February were up 5.7% on last year, and during the Olympic period they were up 13.7%. Further detail of the findings will be revealed at the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s (PATA) annual summit in Korea this month (May 17).
During the Olympics, the most dramatic increase in arrivals came from Chinese independent travelers, up 57.7%, with a 26% market share, on the rebound from last year when Beijing objected to the stationing of US Thaad missiles in Korea. China’s government took action by discouraging group travel to Korea; consequently, 84% of Chinese arrivals are now independent travelers, compared to 35% a year ago.
Data shows other big arrival increases came from Hong Kong, up 98.7%, the USA 15.9%, and Canada 55.6%. Vietnam saw an unprecedented 635.4% increase, due to improved air connectivity, a visa waiver during the Olympics, and the Vietnamese New Year.
March and April registered double-digit growth, as the Olympic boost was sustained. Bookings for May, June and July are 8.5% further ahead than they were at the equivalent time last year, owing to a significant increase in bookings by Chinese independent travelers.
In the months ahead, Vietnam, Canada and Japan are leading the tourism revival to Korea, alongside Chinese independent travelers, demonstrating that the recovery is widespread.
CEO of PATA, Dr Mario Hardy, said: “To put it poetically, the green shoots of Korea’s tourism recovery have emerged from the snows of the Winter Olympics. And what’s particularly gratifying is that it’s being sustained. Tourists are coming from around the world to discover the great attractions of Korea, only glimpsed during the Olympics’ coverage.”
ForwardKeys CEO and co-founder, Olivier Jager, said: “Once again we’re seeing how a big set-piece international event can change tourism trends virtually overnight. Our analysis is able to quantify the impact with hard data, providing organizers with a genuine and accurate gauge of how well their projects have succeeded.”