Chinese visitor numbers rose 37.6 percent year-on-year in October, sustaining the recent recovery in arrivals following last year’s slump driven by Beijing’s ban on group tours to South Korea during the height of the THAAD missile dispute.
The latest figures from the Korea Tourism Organization show that Chinese visitors represented 31.1 percent of all arrivals to South Korea in October, with more than 475,000 entering the country. Overall Chinese visits were up 12.2 percent in the first ten months of the year, following a slow start due to the THAAD row.
However, arrivals from China are still far short of pre-THAAD numbers. In October 2016, almost 681,000 Chinese visitors entered South Korea, 42.9 percent of the total.
While Korean duty free retailers will be buoyed by the latest increases, prospects for 2019 are uncertain. Beijing’s new e-commerce law, due to come into force on January 1, 2019, threatens to weaken severely the daigou or personal-shopping industry that accounts for a large number of Chinese visits to South Korea.
Japanese visitor flurry
Japanese visits leapt 61.7 percent year-on-year in October to over 290,000. Japan is the second-biggest generator of visitors to South Korea and accounted for 19.0 percent of arrivals in the month, up from 15.4 percent in October 2017.
Asia Pacific visitors continue to represent the vast majority of arrivals to South Korea, with 1,250,000 visits from the region comprising 81.8 percent of the total in October.
Departures by Koreans rose 5.2 percent year-on-year in October to 2,347,876. For the first ten months they increased by 9.3 percent to over 23 million.