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Culture Ministry, KTO to focus on experiential programs for young foreign travelers

Jan. 31, 2024 - 14:14 By Lee Si-jin
Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Yu In-chon, center, talks to Korea Tourism Organization's overseas office directors in a press conference held at Seoul Dragon City in Yongsan-gu, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

Making Korea a tourism powerhouse and a sought-after travel destination among young overseas travelers will be the focus of Korea Tourism Organization this year.

In a press conference with Korea Tourism Organization officials and 31 directors of the KTO’s overseas offices in central Seoul on Tuesday, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Yu In-chon highlighted the importance of creating eye-catching tourism products and hosting exciting local festivals that allow travelers to truly experience the many sides of Korean culture.

“Ranging from already popular cultural, religious and music festivals to small-sized, county-level events, nothing is to be rejected. I wish to brand everything that can be promoted to the global holidaymakers who are interested in Korea,” Yu said.

Jin Jong-hwa, the regional executive director of KTO's China office, shared that understanding the current situation and changing trends is essential.

“The political situation between China and Korea led to a steady increase in the number of Chinese group tours. And many Chinese people visit Korea individually or in small groups,” Jin said.

The increasing number of individual travelers brought an interesting change to the Chinese travel trend, according to Jin.

“Instead of shopping, the young travelers focus on personal experiences and seek to find what they can enjoy during their visit to Korea, including hip cafes in Seongsu-dong, the mecca of hipness in Seoul. Their focus is on things that are Instagrammable,” he said.

Director Kim Kyoung-joo from the London KTO added that young English travelers strongly relate their hobbies with travel experiences as well.

“‘Generation T,’ meaning the young tourists between 18 to 24 who are willing to spend money and time on travel experience, are growing rapidly in the UK. Those who are interested in riding a bicycle, for instance, can decide to visit Korea to tour the city or country on a bike,” Kim explained.

Though the importance of Korean content-related events, like beauty festivals, K-pop shows and medical tourism packages, remains strong, the travel officials shared the rising demand from young overseas vacationers, who wish to experience the daily lives of young Koreans.

Despite the ongoing issue of visa applications for Vietnamese tourists, the weak yen and the rise in inflation for Japanese travelers, these travelers’ interest in Korean tourism continues, according to KTO.

“Vietnamese love for a trip to Korea is unparalleled. Japan became the top country with the most number of holidaymakers visiting Korea in 2023. With the accessibility and low-cost travel budget, Japanese tourists are expected to grow over the next two years,” the KTO official said.

Hoping to launch a successful Visit Korea Year 2023-24 campaign, the Culture Ministry and the KTO aim to attract 20 million international visitors to Korea this year and exceed the pre-pandemic number of foreign travelers from 2019.

In 2022, the country welcomed approximately 3.2 million inbound visitors, according to the KTO.

In 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Korea recorded 17.5 million inbound travelers.