The number of Chinese tourists to South Korea is likely to have halved year-on-year in 2017, costing the country nearly US$4.6 billion in tourism-related revenues, reported on Wednesday Yonhap news agency, citing an estimate from the country’s central bank, the Bank of Korea.
The institution said that the tally of Chinese tourists to South Korea is expected to have decreased by 4 million this year, compared to the nearly 8.07 million recorded in 2016. The reduction would mean KRW5 trillion (US$4.58 billion) in “lost revenues”, the Yonhap report noted, citing the bank’s data.
Media in South Korea had previously reported that Chinese authorities had either banned Chinese tourist travel to South Korea or reduced the volume of such trade, with effect from autumn last year – including to the casino holiday island of Jeju. Such action was said to be in retaliation for that country’s decision to install the U.S.-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system close to Chinese territory as a counter to North Korean missile tests. The Chinese authorities have neither confirmed nor denied such a tourism ban.
This year, in the 10 months to October 31, South Korea welcomed a total of 3.54 million visitors from China, representing a year-on-year fall of 49.6 percent in such trade, according to data from the Korea Tourism Organisation. The tally of Chinese visitors made up 31.8 percent of the total number of visitors travelling to South Korea in that period. As of late November, the China National Tourism Administration was allowing tour agents in Beijing and Shandong only over-the-counter sales of package tours to South Korea, according to media reports late last month.
Recent operating data from several of South Korea’s foreigner-only casino operators indicate there is not necessarily a correlation between the revenue performance of South Korea’s 17 foreigner-only casinos – which draw on Chinese VIP gamblers for a significant portion of their business – and the Chinese visitor tally to the country as a whole.
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