Korean MERS crisis creates unexpected bonanza for Thailand and Japan tourism
Chinese tourists scared off by MERS are cancelling Korean trips in favour of Thailand and Japan.
Seoul tumbled out of the top ten tourism destinations for Chinese travelers, as the MERS outbreak continues to take its toll on Korea’s tourism industry and regional competitors Thailand and Japan step up to take over its share of Chinese travelers.
Both Seoul and Jeju Island were not among Ctrip’s top ten favorite destinations for Chinese travelers booking holiday's during the Dragon Boat holiday. Instead, the top popular destinations included Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo and Thailand, which is increasingly popular thanks to its visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese visitors.
Although the Korean tourism market has cooled, the other tourism markets in the region remain strong, and the outlook for China’s outbound tourism market remains positive overall. Outbound tours for Q1 this year grew 21.38% y-o-y to total 8.9532 million trips, according to China National Tourism Administration.
A Ctrip spokesperson predicts that Thailand and Japan would become the most popular destinations for Chinese travelers this summer.
As the MERS situation will cause many travelers to make last-minute changes to itineraries, regional destinations with visa-free or visa-on-arrival policies will be more popular choices, and Indonesia’s inclusion of China in the 30 countries now eligible for visa-free entry is a timely move.
It’s been reported that 67,700 foreign travelers have canceled trips to Korea from June 1-9, and 6,830 of the 11,300 foreign travelers who canceled trips to Korea on June 9 alone were Chinese.
A Korean tour operator said the MERS scare had led to 100,000 Chinese visitors canceling trips to Korea in June. As of June 10, up to 17 cruises from different operators have skipped the Korean peninsula ports of Incheon, Seoul and Pusan and changed courses to “Japan” or “ Japan + Jeju Island”.(Translation by David)