South Korea lagged far behind Japan in attracting foreign travelers this year as more Chinese visited the island nation due to a cheaper yen, tourism data showed Wednesday.
The number of inbound visitors to Japan rose 45 percent on-year to 7.53 million in the first five months of this year, compared with 5.92 million visitors to South Korea, according to the latest data by the two nations' tourism organizations.
It is the first time in seven years that Japan has lured more foreign travelers than South Korea.
The reversal illustrated changing preferences of Chinese, the biggest tourism source for South Korea over the past years.
Chinese have growingly flocked to Japan since September to take advantage of the plunge in the value of the yen as well as eased visa rules and tax incentives, led by young shoppers in their 20s and 30s.
Despite the frayed bilateral ties over territorial disputes, the number of Chinese visitors to Japan soared 83.2 percent on-year to 2.4 million in 2014.
A total of 1.71 million Chinese visited Japan through May this year, already accounting for 71.2 percent of the total figure last year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
The trend is expected to come to the surface this month as a growing number of Chinese have shunned South Korea in the wake of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, 125,150 foreigners called off their trips in the month following the first outbreak on May 20, most of them were from China and Hong Kong.
The local tourism and accommodation industries worry that the recent cancellations could lower the booking rate for the summer season, which could in turn dampen consumer sentiment and the domestic economy. (Yonhap)