According to recently released data for June, foreign visitor numbers to S. Korea have plummeted 41% compared to a year ago – a dramatic change from numbers reported during the first five months of the year and showing an almost 11% increase from the same period in 2014.
In late May, the first cases of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) were reported. Since then, panic has swept the country, and tourism, including visitors to Korea’s sixteen tourists-only casinos. One of those casinos, Paradise Co Ltd, which owns Paradise Jeju Grand, reported a 50.2% decline in June revenues in their Korea Exchange filing.
The reduction in the number or tourists visiting Korea as well as tourism revenue is attributable to mandatory travel advisory warnings imposed by Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China. However the disease is not airborne, only transmitted through close contact, and there have been no new cases reported in over two weeks.
Officials fear that unless the country can lure tourists back, revenue losses could exceed $90 million dollars this year, so Korea’s Tourism organization has launched a “100-day tourism recover plan” and have recruited Korea’s popular K-pop industry stars to give promotional concerts both at home and abroad.
The mayor of Seoul is also traveling to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in early August to talk personally with the major travel agencies and promote the newly instituted waiver of visa fees for tourist groups from China and other Southeast Asia locations.