New visa aims to lure af­flu­ent Chi­nese to S. Korea

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By SU ZHOU suzhou@chi­nadaily.com.cn

South Korea will in­tro­duce a new five-year re­new­able visa in Jan­uary to at­tract af­flu­ent Chi­nese tourists, against the back­drop of a de­crease in Chi­nese ar­rivals in the sec­ond half of the year.

The visa, which al­lows hold­ers to re­turn for stays of up to 30 days dur­ing the pe­riod of val­i­da­tion, is named hal­lyu, af­ter the Korean pop cul­ture wave. Chi­nese tourists who buy spe­cial­ized four-day travel pack­ages cost­ing 17,350 yuan ($2,500) or more can ap­ply.

China’s lead­ing tour com­pany, Ctrip, pre­dicted that only 1 per­cent of main­land tourists would be el­i­gi­ble for the new visa.

South Korea rapidly be­came a top des­ti­na­tion among Chi­nese trav­el­ers in re­cent years, though it saw a brief slow­down in May last year af­ter an out­break of Mid­dle East respi- ra­tory syn­drome. By the end of this year, the num­ber of Chi­nese vis­i­tors is ex­pected to reach a record 8 mil­lion, an in­crease of 33 per­cent year-onyear.

How­ever, since Seoul an­nounced in July that it would de­ploy the THAAD ad­vanced United States mis­sile de­fense sys­tem, there have been monthly de­creases in the num­ber of Chi­nese tourists. Ac­cord­ing to Seoul, 917,500 Chi­nese vis­ited South Korea in July, but only 680,900 vis­ited in Oc­to­ber and 516,956 in Novem­ber.

Xu Xiaolei, a spokesman for China Youth Travel Ser­vice Co, said his com­pany saw a de­crease of about 20 to 30 per­cent in the num­ber of vis­i­tors to South Korea in the sec­ond half of the year com­pared with the first half. He said “many com­pli­cated ex­te­rior rea­sons” were re­spon­si­ble.

Ad­di­tion­ally, protests aris­ing from a scan­dal that led to the im­peach­ment of South Korea’s pres­i­dent af­fected some Chi­nese tourists’ de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Tao Jia, a fash­ion buyer in Wuxi, Jiangsu prov­ince, re­booked her trip to Tokyo in­stead of Seoul in late Novem­ber be­cause she was con­cerned that protests in the South Korean cap­i­tal might dis­rupt her travel or oth­er­wise prove in­con­ve­nient.

In­dus­try in­sid­ers said it was too early to know whether the new visa might fuel South Korea’s in­bound tourism in­dus­try in the com­ing year.

Wang Zhenyue, deputy di­rec­tor of UTour In­ter­na­tional Travel Ser­vice’s di­rect­mar­ket­ing cen­ter, said the tim­ing of the new visa pol­icy is good be­cause it co­in­cides with the New Year and Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­days, a peak sea­son for out­bound Chi­nese tourism.

How­ever, the amount needed to qual­ify for a hal­lyu visa “is rel­a­tively ex­pen­sive” for a brief visit, and “res­i­dents from Shang­hai and Bei­jing can eas­ily get a five-year, mul­ti­ple-en­try visa with­out spend­ing so much money”, he said.

Xu of China Youth Travel Ser­vice said the new visa might prove more at­trac­tive to those from cer­tain sec­on­dand third-tier cities whose res­i­dents usu­ally must pro­vide more doc­u­ments to get a reg­u­lar visa.

“How­ever, gen­er­ally speak­ing, the visa thresh­old for South Korea is not high,” he added.

AHN YOUNG-JOON/ ASSOCIATED PRESS

A woman takes a selfie with work­ers wear­ing panda cos­tumes dur­ing a pro­mo­tional event for Chi­nese tourists at a depart­ment store in Seoul, South Korea, in April.

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