Plans to create a tourism infrastructure fund to solve the shortage of tourist accommodations
Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has come up with this year’s target of attracting 12.5 million foreign tourists and $15.6 billion (roughly 16.5 trillion won). The figures represent a 13 percent jump and an 11 percent surge from last year in terms of the number of foreign tourists and revenues, respectively. KTO also aims at drawing 200,000 tourists for medical treatment and 400,000 cruise tourists and rising to among the global top five in terms of hosting international conferences by focusing on nurturing value-added and convergence tourism products such as medical services and cruise tourism.
In particular, KTO plans to stoke domestic tourism with the goal of lifting people’s yearly domestic trips to an average of 8.6 days. The organization also has a plan to improve infrastructure for accommodating foreign tourists by having 500 more “Goodstay” and 63 more “BENEKIA” chain hotels. KTO may have a hard road ahead, however, to attain the targets as Japanese tourists began to decline in the fourth quarter of last year, influenced by the souring of diplomatic ties between Korea and Japan following President Lee Myung-bak’s trip to Dokdo.
Despite the uncertainties, KTO President Charm Lee is upbeat for the longer term perspective. He revealed an ambitious plan of attracting 17 million foreign tourists in 2017 during a New Year’s meeting of reporters, saying that 25,000 Chinese from the Chinese branch of the multinational Amway are scheduled to come to Jeju, Busan, and Yeosu as incentive tourists between next May and June.
“Foreign tourists could have topped 14 million if accommodation infrastructure was sufficient,” said Lee, adding that Korea should not lose good opportunities to make the most of the nation’s heightened standing and its subsequent rise in inbound tourists. In particular, inbound tourists who cannot visit Korea due to a shortage of hotel rooms last year were estimated at about 2 million to 3 million.
Lee said Korea saw its standing rise to the extent that the number of foreign tourists was as many as 1.1 million last August. He painted an optimistic picture that tourism revenues was estimated at $14 billion in 2012, and the 2013 target of $14 billion in tourism revenues is predicted to be attainable, so Korea is able to rise to sixth in the world in the number of annual foreign tourists.
KTO plans to attach priority in expanding a variety of accommodation facilities such as Goodstay, Korea Stay, and hanok (traditional Korean architecture), along with improving the quality of services. KTO plans to raise a tourism infrastructure fund to fix the shortage of accommodation facilities, said Park Young-kyu, head of KTO’s Public Relations Office.
The Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism (MCST) projected that Seoul had a shortage of 12,681 hotel rooms, a far cry from the demand necessary for attracting more than 1.06 million foreign tourists. Currently, there are some 25,000 hotel rooms in the capital, one-fifth of the 136,000 hotel rooms in Tokyo.
KTO President Charm Lee volunteers by cooking and introducing Korean
food to foreigners at the traditional Gwangjang Market in downtown Seoul.
Figures released by the MCST showed that many city and provincial governments are scrambling to build more hotels, but the percentage of new hotel construction projects launched stands at less than 10 percent. The reality is that many project owners cannot afford enough funding. KTO plans to push for a proposal of raising a tourism hotel fund in the public sector, which would ramp up credit guarantees and solidify accommodation infrastructure. A focus will be placed on expanding budget accommodation facilities and support for homestays for experiencing Korean culture.
KTO plans to extend its utmost support to 2013 Visit Busan, Ulsan, and Gyeongsangnam-do Year as well as Suncheon Bay Expo 2013, slated for April 20-Oct. 20. It plans to establish a platform for ushering in an era of tourism for people’s happiness by prioritizing on invigorating regional tourism economies through the attraction of foreign and Korean tourists. In this vein, KTO is pushing ahead with projects to reinvigorate domestic tourism and step up public tourism services. Among the projects KTO is implementing with the goal of turning around the domestic economy and improving the quality of people’s lives are the 200 Korean tourism spot picks and the development of programs tailored to encourage domestic firms’ promoting of domestic tourism in connection with the Every Nook and Corner Campaign.
KTO President Lee said, “In the case that people travel one day more, it will have an economic spillover effect of 5 trillion won, contributing greatly to boosting domestic demand and regional economies.”
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Choi Kwang-sik and KTO President Charm Lee attend a ceremony to celebrate Korea's 10 millionth foreign visitor last Nov. 21.