There are around 160 companies catering exclusively to Chinese tourists, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
“Those open today are not dealing with group tours but packages for individual travelers from China who come here to buy goods to resell back home,” Kim said.
In March, the Chinese government banned travel agencies from organizing group tours to Korea in the wake of a geopolitical dispute with Seoul over a U.S. missile defense system deployed to Korea.
Since then, New Huacheng International Tourism, the largest inbound tourism agency catering Chinese tourists in Korea, sent more than half of its employees to Japan and countries in Southeast Asia, to cater to Chinese tourists traveling there.
The company brought in some 1.1 million tourists from China last year. That number dropped to around 100,000 as of August of this year.
The number of foreign tourists from March to July this year hit 5.17 million, a drop from 7.48 million in the same period last year, according to the Korea Tourism Organization. From March to July this year, the number of Chinese tourists dropped by 2.31 million. Last year, more than 8 million Chinese tourists came to Korea.
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