Chinese arrivals drive South Korean tourism to new heights

SOUTH KOREA. The number of Chinese visitors to South Korea soared by +17% year-on-year in 2011, to 2,061,116, representing a 23% share of arrivals, according to year-end figures from Korea Tourism Organization.

The results confirm the strong and prolonged rise of Chinese tourism, a dynamic that is having a critical impact on South Korea’s travel retail industry. Five years ago, Chinese visitors represented just above 15% of visitors to the country.

Japanese arrivals, the long-time lynchpin of the country’s travel retail channel, grew by +7.0% in 2011 to 2,989,982, a 33.4% share – a decent result given the catastrophic Japanese earthquake and tsunami earlier in the year.

Total tourism arrivals rose +10.2% year-on-year to 8,952,413.

These figures show the influence of key visitor groups from Asia. Source: Korea Tourism Organization

The other critical customer base for Korea’s travel retail industry, departing nationals, edged ahead by +1.8% in the first 11 months of 2011 to 11,673,085. Year-end figures are not yet available.

South Korean capital city Seoul is the venue for the 2012 Trinity Forum, hosted by Incheon International Airport on 13-15 February (see details below).


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