The government this week announced a package of measures aimed at boosting the domestic tourism industry. These include introducing tourism weeks in the spring and autumn, during which transportation and accommodation fees are discounted, and providing employees at small companies with a vacation bonus partly subsidized by state coffers.
Presiding over a meeting of relevant administration and industry officials, President Park Geun-hye stressed the importance of facilitating a virtuous circle in which the galvanized tourism sector leads to greater domestic consumption and more jobs. The tourism industry was selected as one of the five service sectors Park promised to promote as part of her three-year economic innovation plan announced last month.
Data by local research institutes show the current annual expenditure of 24 trillion won ($22 billion) on local tourism has an economic effect worth more than 39 trillion won and jobs for about 500,000 people. As Park said, a 10 percent increase in domestic tourism could have a significant effect on the economy.
But it is necessary to pay equal or even more heed to ways of attracting more foreign tourists and getting more affluent Koreans to turn to local destinations rather than going on expensive overseas trips.
Creating more differentiated products tailored to the characteristics of each region would serve this purpose as well. But efforts should be accelerated to lift regulations and promote investments in building large resort complexes that can compete with popular luxurious facilities around the globe. In this regard, a plan to build an international hub for leisure and tourism at a site near Incheon International Airport by 2020 needs to be implemented as scheduled.
Government data show that more than 14 million Koreans spent a record $17.8 billion during their travels abroad last year. These figures should be a reminder of the urgent need to improve the tourism infrastructure in the country.