Issuance of double visas to tourists from Beijing and Shanghai and repayment of value-added charges on hotel bills to FITs among measures to attract more Chinese and Japanese tourists
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is on its way to making the tourism industry a high value-added fusion industry that will create jobs and be a future growth engine for Korea, based on the decision made at the first Tourism Promotion Meeting held at Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential mansion, on July 17 presided over by President Park Geun-hye, the ministry said recently.
The ministry aims to boost the foreign tourist arrival numbers to 16 million and tourism earnings to $24 billion in 2017, creating 1 million jobs by the target year, up from 850,000 in 2012. Tourism earnings in 2012 amounted to $14 billion with foreign tourist arrivals totaling 11.14 million.
President Park Geun-hye gives a speech at the first Tourism Promotion
Meeting at Cheong Wa Dae on July 17.(photos: MCST)
At the meeting, President Park said the tourism industry is a high value-added representative industry that encourages the fusion of various vital sectors, thus creating many jobs. The industry can attract increased foreign tourists to Korea by taking advantage of the nation’s history and culture and the well harmonized nature as stories for tourism resources. “The tourism industry can be moved up a step to grow further,” President Park said.
She went on to say that the MCST is the ministry in charge of tourism, but the industry concerns numerous other ministries and provincial administrations and they ought to cooperate with each other to the extent that no walls divide them in order to further develop the tourism industry in Korea.
According to the announcement following the meeting, the reform of the system focused on attracting tourists from China to Korea drew the biggest attention. The government plans to issue double visas to residents of Beijing and Shanghai and students of 112 large universities in China to bring the total number of Chinese eligible to get double visas for visiting Korea in the second half of this year to around 30 million. The government expects those Chinese travelers who have double visas to be very likely to revisit Korea since they don’t have to get visas again when they revisit Korea. Visitors from Southeast Asian countries will also get double visas, as the regulations have been changed to issue double visas to those whose annual income is around $8,000 or more, down from the previous $10,000. Double visas will also be issued to those foreign nationals who want to buy condos in Korea and family members of those who hold double visas.
The government also plans to shut down the shops exclusively for foreign tourists to suspend the various unwanted effects from low-priced tourism and increase the number of interpreters for Chinese speaking tourists. Most of the new interpreters for tourists from Asian countries, including Chinese-speaking tourists, will be from the multicultural families in Korea, especially foreign women married to Korean men. The government plans to secure 500 interpreters annually and 1,500 in the next three years to help Asian tourists in particular.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yoo Jin-ryong gives a briefing to President Park on
his ministry’s plans to promote the tourism industry at the first Tourism Promotion Meeting.
The government also plans to repay the valued-added portion of hotel room charges to individual tourists from next year, which is aimed at Japanese tourists whose numbers have been reduced due to the political conflicts between Korea and Japan and the low value of the Japanese yen. Most Japanese tourists come to Korea as individual tourists with friends or families, not in groups guided by tourism agencies.
The government projects the measure will take effect from Jan. 1 next year and the repayment of the value-added portion of hotel room charges to individual tourists would amount to 50 billion won annually, but it will be covered by increases in tourist earnings from the measure which are projected to amount to 300 billion won as more individual visitors will come to Korea thanks to the measure. But the measure may or may not be renewed as it is an experimental to be in effect for only one year.
The government will also exempt taxes on land bought for businesses related to the tourism industry like tourism complexes and hotels. The government also will not charge taxes for leisure facilities to be built inside tourism complexes or for the investors involved.
The special government measures to spur tourism will also include condos in the areas where investment immigration is permitted including Jeju Island, and Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. The government will allow a foreigner to buy a small condo for experimental purposes while retaining the restriction for Koreans from buying those condos and using them as residential facilities.
The government will also take special measures to crack down on illegal vans, exorbitant taxi charges, and unqualified tour guides that have been damaging the tourism image of Korea with a special police force to check on them and prosecute them beginning in October.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yoo explains the
outcomes of the first Tourism Promotion Meeting.
The local police offices will set up a tourism police unit to patrol popular places for foreign tourists such as Itaewon, Insadong, and Myeong-dong, Seoul. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Headquarters will secure 100 police for its special tourism unit. The Ministry of Home Affairs and Administration will have its tourism police unit patrol the Haeundae area and Gwangbok-dong in Busan, and Incheon’s Chinatown and Songdo will also be extensively patrolled.
Other government initiatives for the development of the tourism industry include improvement of the rating system for hotels; the expansion of cruise ship berths to 12 at harbors around the country; allowing private lodging houses or “guesthouses” to serve breakfast so that they will be included among hostel businesses under the revised regulations governing lodging facilities for foreign tourists; the development of a national capacity standard in the areas of leisure and tourism; the establishment of a national standard rate for international conference planning and the sources for nominating international conference complex venues; the establishment of camping location businesses to spur camping activities; and the establishment of medical tourism clusters. There are currently 851 guesthouses in the country with 154 of them located in residential areas.