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Thursday, August 6, 2015, 09:27

Travel to South Korea on the increase

By Yang Feiyue and Su Zhou
Travel to South Korea on the increase
A woman takes a se lfie with a sheep at a sheep cafe in Seoul on February 17, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones)

South Korea, already a popular destination for Chinese tourists, is expected to see even more despite an outbreak of the Middle East respiratory syndrome in May.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said in Beijing on Wednesday that Seoul experienced many difficulties during the MERS outbreak, but now it's a safe city for everyone to visit. Park is on a promotional campaign in China.

The number of Chinese visitors, who accounted for 43 percent of South Korea's inbound tourism market last year, should return to its average level before the MERS outbreak by October, he said.

The city has prepared various discounted activities and celebrations to woo Chinese tourists. Many department stores, duty-free shops and supermarkets are offering discounts to tourists.

A large-scale concert featuring well-known South Korean artists will be given in early October especially for Chinese tourists during China's National Day holiday. Fireworks and cultural activities will also be held during the holiday, Park said.

In June, at the height of the MERS epidemic, the number of visitors from the Chinese mainland fell by nearly 45 percent from a year earlier. The number of visitors from Hong Kong declined by 75 percent during the same period, according to the Korea National Tourism Organization. South Korea said last week that it is virtually free of the MERS virus.

SongYu, head of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, led a delegation of Beijing-based travel agencies to Seoul last week. "I sensed that the social order, environment and public sentiment have basically recovered from MERS," Song said.

The travel agency representatives who accompanied Song have begun preparing air charter services to Seoul, he said.

"The number of Chinese tourists going to Seoul has been rapidly bouncing back. I saw many Chinese tourists at the duty-free shops during my trip," Song said.

According to Ctrip, a leading Chinese online travel service provider, the record daily booking to South Korea surpassed 500 orders after the announcement that MERS was no longer a factor. Ctrip predicted it will send more than 10,000 tourists to South Korea in August.

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