Seoul prepares for Chinese tourists
Korean capital aims to entice visitors with discounts and attractions amid diplomatic tension
By Kim Se-jeong
As China’s biggest holiday approaches, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) is drawing up diverse programs to welcome Chinese tourists.
The timing isn’t great as China-Korea relations are tense over the planned deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to Korea.
The city said it will install a giant snow globe on top of Mt. Nam. The installation, three metres in diameter, is big enough for people to go inside and take pictures under artificial snowflakes.
The Chinese Spring Festival runs from January 27 until February 2. Local businesses in Seoul are planning to offer benefits to attract visitors spending the holiday here. Almost 100 restaurants in Myeong-dong, Itaewon and COEX major tourist spots in the city will provide a 10 per cent discount to Chinese tourists.
The Discover Seoul Pass will be 25 per cent cheaper than usual. The one-day pass, originally costing 39,900 won (US$34), allows access to 16 tourist destinations in the capital, including palaces, museums and art galleries. The pass can be purchased with a special rate at onemoretrip.net.
City tour buses will also offer discounts of up to 40 per cent. Passports are required for the purchase.
Buxi, a transport service provider, will offer 20 per cent discounts to all passengers during that time. I-Trip, which provides a baggage transport service between hotels and Incheon International Airport, will offer free one-way airport express train tickets to its customers.
“The city is working to make their stay comfortable and pleasurable,” Kim Jae-yong from the city government said. “I hope they will enjoy their stay.”
According to the city estimates, 6.3 million Chinese tourists visited Seoul in 2016, accounting for almost 46 per cent of all tourists.
While the Seoul tourism industry’s reliance on Chinese tourists is high, many are increasingly worried the THAAD deployment will bite into it.
Earlier this month, Chinese authorities rejected chartered flight requests from Korea. It was also reported that the Chinese government has been quietly discouraging citizens from visiting Korea.