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With the Winter 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang approaching, we take a look at the top countries driving international tourism in South Korea.

Inbound Arrivals to South Korea in 2017 (‘000 trips)

Arrivals from China4,882.0
Arrivals from Japan2,357.6
Arrivals from US924.0
Arrivals from Taiwan883.0
Arrivals from Hong Kong, China719.8
Arrivals from Philippines592.7
Arrivals from Thailand504.0
Arrivals from Indonesia322.0
Arrivals from Malaysia309.7
Arrivals from Vietnam247.8
Arrivals from India231.9
Arrivals from Russia224.7
Arrivals from Singapore207.0
Arrivals from Canada190.6
Arrivals from Australia171.4
Arrivals from United Kingdom159.2
Arrivals from Germany130.6
Arrivals from France106.8
Arrivals from Mongolia95.7
Arrivals from Myanmar88.2

 

The main source market for inbound travel to South Korea has been China since 2013. However, after announcing the deployment of THAAD, both value and volumes significantly declined in 2017. Although China remained the largest source market for South Korea, it will likely take some time for inbound arrivals from China to reach previous levels. China was the largest source market for South Korea as its tourists have for many years been fascinated by Korean K-pop stars, celebrities or cultural content such as movies and dramas. Also, as it takes only two hours, South Korea has been an attractive tourist destination for Chinese tourists. Cheaper cosmetic products or the well-known red ginseng products are also popular among Chinese tourists. The second largest source markets are Japan and the US. Japanese tourists visit South Korea due to the close location, short flight duration and cheaper shopping items, whereas Americans visit as US army personnel have many relatives and friends in Korea as the countries have been allies for many years.

Inbound arrivals is set to record a strong volume CAGR of 7% over the forecast period, an improvement over that of the review period. Major threats may come from a weak global economy, political issues and tension between China and South Korea, while opportunities include the new presidential elections and the ongoing development of tourism projects in South Korea.

It will be important for South Korea to continue to develop tourism products, whilst improving the quality of services. In order to improve the re-visit rate, ongoing development of travel attractions and cultural events will also be important. Further developments of local cities as travel destinations is also critical for South Korea to be successful and remain in line with the competition.

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