Air passenger arrivals to South Korea from neighbouring China increased 28 percent year-on-year to 1.69 million in May, show official data from South Korea published on Wednesday.
Additionally, a weakening in Japan’s currency the yen is said to have contributed to a 22 percent on-year increase in air passengers on South Korea-Japan routes. There were 1 million such travellers in May, according to the data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
Tourists from China and Japan are target customers for South Korea’s 16 foreigners-only casinos. There are more such venues on the way, including several planned for sites close to Incheon International Airport (pictured), which serves the capital Seoul, and one large new resort on the southern island of Jeju, involving an investment from Genting Singapore Plc.
Jeju, which already has a cluster of casino resorts, offers mainland Chinese passport holders visa-free access if they fly or sail there direct. Recently however there have been reports of a crackdown in China on the marketing of trips by mainland residents to South Korean casinos.
In contrast to the May air passenger growth rise, South Korea’s June air travel numbers have tumbled in the wake of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in the country, reports the South Korean official news agency Yonhap, quoting official figures.
Morgan Stanley Research said in a note on June 16 in commentary on the outlook for the Asian casino sector: “MERS likely won’t help the market as Asian travellers become more cautious.”
The overall number of air travellers in the South Korea market plunged 19.5 percent year-on-year in the first three weeks of June, with the drop in international air passenger traffic hovering at about 20 percent since June 16, according to ministry data.
As of Wednesday morning, the total number of people in South Korea diagnosed with the respiratory disease came to 179 and the MERS-related death toll stood at 27, according South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China