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Culture Ministry, KTO seek to make S. Korea an Arab-friendly travel destination

Feb. 28, 2024 - 17:59 By Lee Si-jin
Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Yu In-chon speaks at a ceremony marking the launch of Aalam Arabi Korea at The Shilla Seoul in Jung-gu, central Seoul, on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and Korea Tourism Organization on Wednesday launched a new public-private consultative group Aalam Arabi Korea with the aim of creating a more enjoyable tourism environment for holidaymakers from the Middle East.

Aalam Arabi Korea, meaning “world of Arab in Korea” in Arabic, has been formed to create tourism products for travelers from the Middle East travelers, analyze Arab holidaymakers’ travel trends, identify major customers, and provide counseling for local travel agencies and tourism industry to have a better understanding about Arab culture.

“Though South Korea and the Middle East are far off geographically, we share a similarity of successful economic growth. We have been building mutual understanding through different economic partnerships. And Aalam Arabi Korea will allow us to create a bond of friendship,” the Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Yu In-chon said at the launching ceremony of Aalam Arabi Korea held at The Shilla Seoul in Jung-gu, central Seoul, on Wednesday.

Aalam Arabi Korea is a group of 31 tourism-related companies including Shinsegae Duty Free, Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas, Park Hyatt Seoul, The Hyundai Department Store and Chaum.

Five ambassadors of Arab countries -- the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- attending the ceremony agreed that Aalam Arabi Korea is a significant milestone that can foster cultural bond, mutual understanding and mark a new paradigm of partnership between South Korea and the Arab world.

The Culture Ministry is set to promote local tourism in six different sectors, including medical services, shopping, beauty, Korean culture, luxury accommodation and food and beverages, in collaboration with the country’s leading brands that are members of Aalam Arabi Korea.

Chaum, a medical center located in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, shared that Arab customers visit South Korea for anti-aging and infertility treatments, VIP physical examinations and medical check-ups. However, the number is still very small compared to the total number of medical tourists.

“Some say that the number of Arab visitors is small because South Korea is far from the Middle East. But, there are many visitors from Europe. Regardless of the popularity of Korean culture and its soft power, I believe that South Korea is still an unfamiliar country to many Arab people,” a Chaum official said.

“What is important to patients is that they feel comfortable, as if they were at home. Ranging from a health examination questionnaire and emergency hotline to food to avoid, there is much room for improvement. I feel Aalam Arabi Korea will close the gap between South Korea and Arab countries, benefiting both sides,” the official added.

The Culture Ministry highlighted that the Aalam Arabi Korea plans to expand Muslim-friendly amenities, infrastructure, and travel services.

The official website of KTO, which presents travel information to overseas tourists, including restaurants, medical facilities, landmarks and more, began offering Arabic service starting Wednesday.

Arabic language service will be offered on local mobile mapping services and tourism-related applications as well.