Travel to South Korea ris­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By YANG FEIYUE and SUZHOU

South Korea, al­ready a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for Chi­nese tourists, is ex­pected to see even more de­spite an out­break of the Mid­dle East res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome in May.

Seoul Mayor Park Won­soon said in Bei­jing on Wed­nes­day that Seoul ex­pe­ri­enced many dif­fi­cul­ties dur­ing the MERS out­break, but now it’s a safe city for ev­ery­one to visit. Park is on a pro­mo­tional cam­paign in China.

The num­ber of Chi­nese visi­tors, who ac­counted for 43 per­cent of South Korea’s in­bound tourism mar­ket last year, should re­turn to its av­er­age level be­fore the MERS out­break by Oc­to­ber, he said.

The city has pre­pared var­i­ous dis­counted ac­tiv­i­ties and cel­e­bra­tions to woo Chi­nese tourists. Many depart­ment stores, duty-free shops and su­per­mar­kets are of­fer­ing dis­counts to tourists.

A large-scale con­cert fea­tur­ing well- known South Korean artists will be given in early Oc­to­ber es­pe­cially for Chi­nese tourists dur­ing China’s Na­tional Day hol­i­day. Fire­works and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties will also be held dur­ing the hol­i­day, Park said.

In June, at the height of the MERS epi­demic, the num­ber of visi­tors from the Chi­nese main­land fell by nearly 45 per­cent from a year ear­lier. The num­ber of visi­tors from Hong Kong de­clined by 75 per­cent dur­ing the same pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the Korea Na­tional Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion. South Korea said last week that it is vir­tu­ally free of the MERS virus.

SongYu, head of the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mis­sion of Tourism De­vel­op­ment, led a del­e­ga­tion of Bei­jing-based travel agen­cies to Seoul last week. “I sensed that the so­cial or­der, en­vi­ron­ment and public sen­ti­ment have ba­si­cally re­cov­ered from MERS,” Song said.

The travel agency rep­re­sen­ta­tives who ac­com­pa­nied Song have be­gun pre­par­ing air char­ter ser­vices to Seoul, he said.

“The num­ber of Chi­nese tourists go­ing to Seoul has been rapidly bounc­ing back. I saw many Chi­nese tourists at the duty-free shops dur­ing my trip,” Song said.

Ac­cord­ing to Ctrip, a lead­ing Chi­nese online travel ser­vice provider, the record daily book­ing to South Korea sur­passed 500 or­ders af­ter the an­nounce­ment that MERS was no longer a fac­tor. Ctrip pre­dicted it will send more than 10,000 tourists to South Korea in Au­gust. Con­tact the writer at yangfeiyue@ chi­nadaily., suzhou@chi­nadaily.

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