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Seoul City sees steady increase in foreign visitors

Chinese tourists emerging as biggest spenders

Despite recent unfavorable conditions including North Korea’s bombardment on Yeongpyeong Island, the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, an earthquake and radiation fears in Japan, Seoul City sees a slight increase in the number of foreign visitors to the capital this year.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Wednesday, the number of foreign travelers over the past five months reached 3.19 million, up 3 percent from 3.1 million in the same period last year.

Foreign visitors spent $1,403 per person, up from $1,286 last year, with the city’s profits from tourism alone amounting to 5 trillion won. Related industries also benefited in terms of production worth 8.3 trillion won and 81,000 new jobs, the city said.

“Unlike our close rivals in Japan and China, which have seen fluctuations in the number of foreign visitors, Seoul is witnessing a steady increase since 2006. We aim to attract 8.35 million people by the end of the year,” said Ahn Seung-il, the city’s assistant mayor of culture and tourism.

Years of promotional efforts by the city have just started to pay off, he said, adding that the capital city was upbeat about more tourists coming from neighboring countries.

Seoul has become one of the destinations favored by foreign tourists, especially those from Asian countries.

A recent survey conducted by research firm AC Nielson for the city government, Chinese, Japanese and Thais ranked Seoul as their favorite city in which they would want to work, for three years in a row.

Amid a recent surge in visitors from China and Southeast Asia, Chinese travelers are emerging as big spenders thanks to the country’s rapid economic growth.

In 2010, Chinese tourists spent most with $1,646 per person and their favored items to buy were perfume, cosmetic products, ginseng and medicinal herbs.

Even though the Japanese still made up the largest portion of the visitors, their average spending was $1,076, lower than the total average of $1,298.

The city will keep up marketing efforts, holding promotional events in emerging markets such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia, not to mention China.

It has recently eased regulations on the construction of various accommodation and amenities facilities while dispatching 72 tourist guides across the city and setting up more information offices.

By Lee Ji-yoon (