Hit TV shows driving rise in visits to South Korea

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 5:20am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 5:20am

The tourism industry is expecting a big rise in the number of Hong Kong travellers flocking to South Korea for the summer holidays this year.

Besides Hongkongers' seemingly insatiable appetite for Korean television series - including the latest hit My Love From the Star - political instability in Thailand is also expected to channel travellers to the country, as well as to Japan and Taiwan, says Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung.

And that combination of factors will contribute to a 20 per cent rise on last year in the number of Hongkongers holidaying in Korea, Tung said.

Japan and Taiwan will see a similar rise in visitor numbers, he said.

The projection is backed up by numbers from South Korea's tourism board, which said 55,795 Hong Kong travellers had visited the country in April - an 83.5 per cent rise from the same period last year.

"Many people are eager to visit the scenes of their favourite Korean series," Tung said.

South Korea is attractive for holidaymakers looking to take a short break due to its close proximity to Hong Kong and its lower prices compared to Japan, Tung said.

A package tour to Japan would cost about HK$7,000 - at least 40 per cent more than a similar tour to Korea would cost.

His view was shared by Steve Huen Kwok-chuen, executive director of travel company EGL Tours, who said the number of Hong Kong travellers to Korea reached a record high of over 400,000 visitors last year - double the number travelling there 10 years ago.

"The craze for Korean culture started from a popular Korean television series, Jewel in the Palace, about 10 years ago. Since then, Hongkongers have become more interested in Korean movie stars and culture," Huen said.

Besides the capital, Seoul, Jeju Island and Busan are the most popular spots for tourists.

Huen believed families would start making bookings this month - weeks before the start of the school holidays.

Despite demand in peak seasons, both Huen and Tung believed the strong competition among travel agents and different airlines meant prices for flights and tour packages would remain reasonable.

Huen estimated a five-day package tour to South Korea would cost some HK$5,000 per person, which is about a 5 to 10 per cent rise from last year.