Chinese tourists in North Korea: ‘almost a necessary evil’
- A surge in visitors from China is likely to have financial benefits and has led to improvements at hotels
- But North Korean guides are overwhelmed by large groups and unable to stop travellers from wandering off unaccompanied
Businesses across the capital are booming, according to a November 1 NK News article, with the increase in arrivals driving improvements at hotels, including “more powerful hairdryers, new paving, mosquito nets, powerful showers and even 24-hour supplies of hot water”.
However, as other countries familiar with a sudden influx of travellers from the Middle Kingdom have found, the financial rewards aren’t always enough to sugar the pill of being too popular.
“Chinese groups are typically large and hence more difficult to control,” a guide who led tours to North Korea told NK News. “Some local guides have expressed disappointment with the lack of interest in their explanations at tourist sites.” The website also reported that Dr Tereza Novotna, a North Korea scholar, said that Chinese visitors were viewed as “almost a necessary evil”, while Cockerell explained that local guides found the large groups “a bit overwhelming”.
Mainland tourists are also overwhelming specific sites, including Juche Tower and Kim Il-sung Square, in the capital, and the DMZ, the no man’s land that separates the North from South Korea.
Speaking to Daily NK, an unnamed North Korea expert said, “Before there used to be a quota on the number of Chinese tourists allowed into North Korea, but this quota has become useless.”
As far as we know, no such penalties have been dished out to Chinese tourists. Sources told NK News that “DPRK tourist authorities simply don’t want to rock the boat when it comes to the industry’s biggest ever cash cow in history”.
Should North Korea need any evidence on what happens when a Chinese tourism boom goes unchecked, there are plenty of cautionary tales from around the region. Spoiler: it is not always pretty.
Kyoto district has had enough of intrusive travellers and bans photos
According to The Guardian newspaper, the ban and fine are not legally binding, with local businesses hoping the measure will convince visitors to have more respect for the neighbourhood.
Group representative Mimiko Takayasu told NHK that the ban had been imposed to help preserve Gion’s traditional atmosphere.
China’s Hebei province closes 32 unsafe glass bridges and walkways
Amid a lack of national regulation, Hebei province has enforced regional requirements, leading to the closure of 32 glass-bottomed attractions over the past 18 months. Authorities in Guangdong have also been cracking down, demanding changes to six sites deemed unsafe in the province.
Suddenly, that vertigo seems all too justified, doesn’t it.