Sunday, November 18, 2012

Inbound travelers to top 10 million

The number of visitors to the country this year is expected to top the landmark 10 million for the first time within this week, thanks to the surge of Chinese and Japanese tourists.

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said today that they expect the 10 millionth foreign visitor to arrive in Korea on Wednesday.

Their forecast comes after examining immigration data in recent months: between January and September, 8.44 million foreigners visited Korea, a 19-percent rise from a year before, and the October tally almost reached 1 million.

“We expect about 11.3 million to come by the end of the year, surpassing our goal for this year of 11 million,” a KTO official said.

The state agency and the ministry will hold a welcome ceremony for the 10 millionth traveler at Incheon International Airport.

According to the KTO, the annual number of inbound travelers exceeded 1 million in 1978, 3 million in 1991, 5 million in 2000, and 7 million in 2010. Since 1978, the figure has grown by 15 percent annually on average. Last year, the nation had 9.79 million foreign visitors.

The average growth rate for the last three years was 12.4 percent, which is far higher than Italy’s 2.6 percent and the United States and China’s 2.9 percent, respectively, according to the official.

“Among top 50 nations attracting largest numbers of tourists, Korea was the only country to record double-digit growth for three consecutive years,” the official said.

They said a surge of Chinese and Japanese tourists has contributed to the huge growth: this year so far, the number of Chinese travelers was 2.9 million, up 30 percent from last year’s total 2.2 million. From July, more than 300,000 Chinese have been coming here every month, exceeding the figure of Japanese which used to be highest.

The number of Japanese travelers is still high, up 19.5 percent from last year.

“Hallyu, based on K-pop and soap operas, was the major factor to attract visitors. Travel agencies have also developed various tour programs,” the official said.

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