Statistics from the Korea Tourism Organization, and published by Jing Travel show that Chinese visitor numbers rose 37.6% year-on-year in October 2018, sustaining the recent recovery in arrivals following the 2017 slump driven by Beijing’s ban on group tours to South Korea during the height of the THAAD missile dispute. Arrivals from China are still far short of pre-THAAD numbers and the 2019 inbound flow remains uncertain. Arrivals from Japan, the second-biggest generator of visitors to South Korea, also saw a big increase.
However, arrivals from China are still far short of pre-THAAD numbers. In October 2016, almost 681,000 Chinese visitors entered South Korea, 42.9% of the total.
While Korean duty-free retailers will be buoyed by the latest increases, prospects for 2019 are uncertain. Beijing’s new e-commerce law, due to come into force on January 1, 2019, threatens to weaken severely the daigou or personal-shopping industry that accounts for a large number of Chinese visits to South Korea.
Japanese visits leapt 61.7% year-on-year in October to over 290,000. Japan is the second-biggest generator of visitors to South Korea and accounted for 19% of arrivals in the month, up from 15.4% in October 2017.
Asia Pacific visitors continue to represent the vast majority of arrivals to South Korea, with 1,250,000 visits from the region comprising 81.8% of the total in October 2018.
Departures by Koreans rose 5.2% year-on-year in October to 2,347,876. For the first ten months they increased by 9.3% to over 23 million.