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Seoul to broaden tourism drive ahead of Winter Olympics

The capital is hoping to ride the wave of PyeongChang’s successful 2018 Winter Olympics bid to attract more foreign tourists, officials said Sunday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to expand its sale of tourist packages to the U.S. and Middle East on top of the current eight Asian countries including China, Taiwan and Malaysia.

The Seoul City tourism packages are made by domestic tour companies with subsidies from the Seoul City government under guidelines suggested by tour operators in foreign countries.

Some 22,000 foreign tourists purchased packages for the capital in 2010, and about 15,500 tourists using the packages have entered the country during the first half of this year.

Wagering that PyeongChang would win the bid, Seoul officials already invited 24 tourism managers from New Zealand and Australia on June 28 to test the waters for its packages in Seoul and near PyeongChang for five days.

“Foreign companies could be involved in the Seoul tourism packages from the planning stage in order to develop a program that meets their needs. Many responded positively, especially because of the bright prospects for PyeongChang’s successful bid,” said a city official.

“We expect tourists from a broader range of areas than those already from Japan and East Asia,” he said. “We are working on diverse tour courses, including an ice gallery in Jongno district in central Seoul, where tourists from countries with a long summer can enjoy Korean fruit punch with ice.”

Seoul will also create a task force with PyeongChang to expand the operation of buses to and from Seoul, PyeongChang and Gangneung, Gangwon Province. The capital city plans to run a chartered plane shuttling between Yangyang and Gimpo airports.

Officials are also considering extending the Hallyu tour train operation until 2018. The tour train, which stops at sites famous as hallyu drama locations, is currently set to end operation in September, this year.

According to a Gangwon Province think tank, the Winter Olympics is expected to draw in some 195,000 foreign tourists to Korea.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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