President Park Geun-hye on Monday called for a package of measures to energize domestic tourism, which could help boost domestic demand and create more jobs.
Park made the call at a meeting with relevant ministers, heads of agencies and industry representatives, saying a robust domestic tourism market is the basis for attracting more foreign visitors.
"Compared with countries boasting advanced tourism industries, our country has a relatively high level of dependence on the international tourism market," Park said during the meeting at the presidential office. "Overseas travel is increasing significantly, but the total amount of domestic tourism hasn't changed much."
Domestic tourism should be encouraged by introducing alternative holiday systems at workplaces and developing various tourism programs, such as a domestic tourism week, she said.
Park also stressed the importance of drawing up tourism policies that are tailored to the characteristics of individual regions and visitors, saying the lack of differentiated products discourages tourism within the country.
She especially noted growing demand for food, ecology and rural tourism.
"Vitalizing domestic tourism should lead to a virtuous circle of greater domestic demand and job creation," Park said, adding that the tourism industry was one of the five service sectors she promised to promote as part of her three-year economic innovation plan announced early last month.
A 10 percent increase in domestic tourism can have a significant effect on the economy, she said, citing data that South Koreans' annual expenditure of 24 trillion won ($22.1 billion) on domestic tourism leads to production worth more than 39 trillion won and jobs for about 500,000 people.
Recalling her state visit to Switzerland last month, Park also noted the importance of specialized training in tourism.
"In Switzerland, university enrollment rate is under 30 percent," she said. "But the reason it is No. 1 in the world in terms of human resources competitiveness is because it has a well developed high-quality job training system."
Park then instructed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to come up with ways to develop and support professionals in the tourism industry by working with high schools and vocational colleges specialized in tourism and creating a national standard for tourism skills. (Yonhap News)