|Visitors from Southeast Asia tour Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul (Photo: Yonhap News Agency)|
The Yonhap news agency reported that the country's tourism is bearing the brunt of what appears to be acts of retaliation by Beijing against Seoul's decision reached in July to host a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.
China has banned all package trips from China to the RoK, and Chinese cruises no longer make stopovers at local ports in popular tourist destinations. Chinese airlines have also cut back on RoK-bound flights.
In an effort to minimize the impact, the RoK’s central and provincial governments are working to lure more Southeast Asians and those from the Middle East, where Korean pop stars and TV drama series have gained huge popularity.
According to Yonhap, Busan, the RoK's largest port city, plans to bolster designing various tour programmes that target Middle Eastern visitors.
The city will also work with local businesses to develop medical and cruise tours for visitors from the Middle East, India, Mongolia and Russia.
North Chungcheong Province, which has Cheongju International Airport, is pushing to increase flights to Taiwan, Vietnam, Russia and Japan.
The culture ministry said it plans to hold tourism exhibitions in Vietnam and Singapore next month to promote the RoK.
Aside from state and provincial efforts, local firms, led by duty-free operators, are rushing to diversify their customer bases to tide over current difficulties. Hanwha Galleria, the duty-free unit of Hanwha Group, recently clinched deals with two travel agencies in the Middle East to secure foreign customers.
It also plans to work with local hospitals to offer medical treatment services for Middle Eastern visitors as part of their tour programmes