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Cost of Seoul travel surges

Number of visitors rebounds after lows of summer MERS crisis

Daily travel expenses for visitors to Seoul have surged over the last year, making it one of the most expensive cities to travel in the world, a lawmaker’s report showed Tuesday.

According to Rep. Park Dae-chul of the ruling Saenuri Party, the daily travel cost for foreigners visiting Seoul recorded $438 this year, ranking it as the 13th highest in the world and third in Asia. The cost includeS $310 for accommodation and $128 for food expenses. 

Korea Tourism Organization officials welcome Chinese tourists arriving in Seoul for China’s National Day holiday Friday at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap)
Korea Tourism Organization officials welcome Chinese tourists arriving in Seoul for China’s National Day holiday Friday at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap)

The ranking was determined based on the Corporate Travel Index, an annual report released by Business Travel News in the U.S. 

The average daily travel cost of 100 major cities in the world was $351, down by $17. Seoul’s cost, however, rose by $12.

Seoul’s ranking has sharply climbed over the past few years. In 2011, Korea stood at 58th with $332, jumping to 25th with $426 by last year.

Of the 100 cities, Caracas in Venezuela topped the ranking with $1,325 this year, followed by London with $576 and Hong Kong with $529.

While the rising travel cost drew concerns, Korea has seen a sharp drop in the number of tourists since the Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak hit the country in late May.

The number of visitors declined by 40 percent in July, and the booking rate for tours also plummeted by over 80 percent in the summer, according to tourism officials.

As part of the efforts to draw more tourists, Seoul Metropolitan Government vowed Tuesday to hold a welcome week for foreign visitors in early October, particularly targeting Chinese tourists during China’s National Day holiday.

From Oct. 1-10, the city will run various welcoming events in tourist spots such as Myeong-dong, Itaewon and Gangnam. It will open nine temporary tourist information booths in the city to better support the visitors, officials said.

The municipality also vowed to compensate tourists on-site if any overcharging cases are confirmed.

Over 210,000 Chinese visitors are expected to arrive in Seoul on holiday in October, up about 30 percent year-on, they said.

Under the slogan of “The Time is Now,” Seoul City has implemented a wide range of tourism promotion measures over the summer. While injecting 23 billion won ($19.2 million) to the MERS-hit tourism industry, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon flew to China for a “tourism sales trip.”

As of August, the number of tourists recovered to about 74 percent compared to the last year, the city said.

During Chuseok, a large number of Chinese visitors also traveled to Jejudo Island, one of the most popular sightseeing regions.

From Friday to Monday, about 40,000 foreign tourists visited the island, which is nearly equivalent to half the number of total foreign visitors to the island in July, the Jejudo Island tourism authorities said. The majority of visitors to the island were Chinese.

By Lee Hyun-jeong (rene@heraldcorp.com)

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