South Korea’s embattled tourism industry will be granted a much-needed reprieve with China set to allow travel agencies in Beijing and Shangdong to resume some group tours to its near neighbour.
The easing of restrictions will come as a welcome relief to operators of Korea’s 16 foreigner-only casinos and particularly for Paradise Group, which has seen its new IR Paradise City ramp slowly since opening in April.
China implemented a blanket ban on tour groups to Korea in March following the decision by Korea’s government to install the US THAAD anti-missile system. The move crippled the country’s tourism industry, with the holiday island of Jeju – home to nine foreigner-only casinos – reporting in July that tourist numbers had plummeted by 56.2% in March, 88.1% in April, 89.6% in May and 89.3% in June. It added at the time that 117,828 Chinese tourists who had booked trips between July and October through 30 Chinese tourist agencies had cancelled.
But according to Reuters, the China National Tourism Administration will now allow resumption of over-the-counter sales of package tours from Beijing and Shandong to South Korea. Online sales of package tours and charter flights or cruise trips are still banned for the time being.
Travel agencies have also been told not to include units of Lotte Group in their travel packages, with the Korean conglomerate having provided land for installation of THAAD.
Korean tourism officials told Reuters that they expected bans on other Chinese regions to be gradually lifted in the coming months.