Chinese Traveler Numbers to South Korea Stay Low Post-Pandemic

Seoul – Despite China's reopening from COVID-19 restrictions and the resumption of group tours, the monthly average of Chinese travelers visiting South Korea in 2023 has remained significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the Hyundai Research Institute on Sunday, around 144,000 Chinese nationals visited South Korea per month on average this year. This figure is approximately one-third of the monthly average of 416,000 recorded from 2017 to 2019. During this period, the Chinese government had imposed a ban on group tours to South Korea following a diplomatic rift over the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the country.

The ban on group tours was first implemented in 2017 and then partially lifted in some regions before being entirely suspended again at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Group tours from China to South Korea fully resumed in August 2023. However, the Hyundai Research Institute points to a slower-than-expected rebound in Chinese consumers' economic sentiment as a key factor in the sluggish recovery of traveler numbers.

The institute also noted a shift in the travel preferences of Chinese tourists. There has been a decrease in interest in group tours to South Korea, while travel demand for Japan has risen, likely influenced by the weakened yen. This change in travel patterns indicates a broader shift in the post-pandemic travel landscape and consumer behavior.

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