The number of inbound Chinese tourists to South Korea has surpassed 4 million this year to date. This is the first time for Chinese tourist numbers to break the 4-million level.
According to the state-run Korea Culture & Tourism Institute on December 22, the figure for the January-November period was 4.05 million, up 53.4 percent from the same period last year. For the whole year in 2012, 2.83 million Chinese tourists flocked to Korea.
This is also the first year to see the number of Chinese tourists exceed that from Japan. The number for Japanese tourists during the same 11-month period was 2.53 million, down 23 percent from a year ago.
The Chinese have quickly become the big spenders in the world thanks to the stronger yuan and the rising middle class. In response, the Korean government is trying to welcome them with open arms by relaxing visa requirements. In addition, more and more Chinese visitors land on Korean shores through cruise ships. The number has increased 35.8 percent this year to 800,000.
The rising trend has not been deterred by the new October 1 Chinese law regulating outbound package tours. During the month of October when the law went into effect, 343,000 Chinese tourists visited Korea, up 22.8 percent from the same month last year. In November 276,000 came to Korea, 35.0 percent higher than a year ago.