copy the linklink copied!Korea

copy the linklink copied!Tourism in the economy

Tourism is a significant driver of economic growth in Korea. In 2018, it accounted for 4.7% of GDP and is estimated to support 1.4 million jobs, representing 5.3% of total employment. Travel exports represented 15.5% of total service exports in 2018.

International visit arrivals increased by 15.1% to 15.3 million in 2018. The largest visitor flows are from neighbouring countries, including China (up 14.9% over 2017) and Japan (up 27.6% over 2017). Together, these two inbound markets generated 50.4% of total international arrivals to Korea. Chinese Taipei outnumbered the United States for the first time as the third major source market.

Increased volumes were reflected in solid expenditure growth in 2018, with international visitor expenditure up 14.6% to KRW 16.7 trillion. Expenditure by Chinese visitors, now Korea’s leading market by value as well as volume, amounted to KRW 6.2 trillion in 2018. Other large markets showing strong growth included the United States (KRW 1.9 trillion) and Japan (KRW 1.7 trillion).

Total domestic trips totalled 311.2 million, an increase of 9.2% on 2017. Same day trips decreased by 14.1% to 147.9 million, while overnight travel rose by 44.7% to 163.2 million. The number of nights spent by domestic visitors in collective accommodation establishments totalled 408.9 million in 2018.

copy the linklink copied!Tourism governance and funding

Chaired by the Prime Minister, the national tourism strategy meeting was established in December 2017. The meeting brings together not only the tourism minister but also related Ministers including those for foreign affairs, transport, law and justice, and maritime. In April 2019, the third meeting discussed ways to attract more international tourists and boost domestic travel to stimulate regional economies.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism works closely with the Korea Tourism Organisation, which is the publicly funded and responsible for marketing and promotion of Korea domestically and abroad. The organisation has recently reformed its structure by further strengthening key departments and aligning these closely to the Government’s tourism policy priorities. These include tourism welfare, supporting the growth of tourism enterprises, safety management, international co-operation and the application of big data technologies to tourism.

As of August 2018, tourism became the responsibility of the Second Vice Minister within the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) with two main directorates:

  • Tourism Policy Bureau, encompassing separate divisions for Policy, Domestic Tourism Promotion, International Tourism and Tourism Service Enhancement.

  • Tourism Industry Policy Bureau, comprising divisions for Tourism Industry Policy, Convergence of the Tourism Industry and Tourism Development.

The Tourism Promotion and Development Fund supports tourism under the Framework Act of Tourism. In 2018, the total expenditure of the Fund was approximately KRW 811 billion, including KRW 97 billion for tourism industry promotion, as well as tourism infrastructure and other projects to attract foreign tourists.

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Korea: Organisational chart of tourism bodies
Korea: Organisational chart of tourism bodies

Source: OECD, adapted from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, 2020.

copy the linklink copied!Tourism policies and programmes

Korea’s Tourism Innovation Strategy announced in April 2019 was the result of the third national tourism strategy meeting. It has guided the tourism industry through a period of impressive growth in visits and expenditure. Nonetheless, the industry faces a range of challenges to ensure that the pace of growth can continue in a sustainable way. Key challenges include:

  • Securing continued growth of inbound tourists and higher yielding tourists by enhancing visa facilitation.

  • Strengthening the competitiveness of tourism SMEs in response to future tourism trends (Box 2.5).

  • Increasing the dispersal of visitors to less visited regions.

  • Enhancing the attractiveness and quality of tourism products and services.

Under the auspices of the Tourism 2020 Strategy, Korea is pursuing a range of policy responses to address these challenges. First, the government will ease visa rules to draw more visitors from China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and India. Second, four local municipalities will be developed into regional tourism hubs, and tour programmes will embrace more cultural content, including K-pop, to attract foreign fans of Korean pop culture. The government will also increase subsidies for tourism to a level similar to that allocated to manufacturing industry. It will provide tourism ventures with up to KRW 198 billion.

To encourage foreign tourists to travel to other destinations within Korea, the government and the tourism industry have developed several measures. One specific policy is to extend multiple entry visas to Chinese nationals that reside in the country’s more economically prosperous cities. Currently the visas – which allow for unlimited entry and exit to and from Korea during a certain period of time – are only available to residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

In addition to more aggressive marketing of Korean pop culture, another proposal being advanced by the government is expanding tourism to include the Demilitarised Zone, a border area of tourist interest which is around 250 kilometres long and about 4 kilometres miles wide.

Other policy initiatives include:

  • Life cycle tourism programmes tailored to all age groups from children to seniors. Plans are also dedicated to attract and support underprivileged groups.

  • Customised tourism content, promotion, and marketing strategies for each major source market.

  • A dedicated online platform and improved digital marketing strategies to enhance the experience for independent travellers. Recommended tour itineraries have been developed with an opportunity to purchase products.

copy the linklink copied!Statistical Profile

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Korea: Domestic, inbound and outbound tourism

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

TOURISM FLOWS, THOUSAND

Domestic tourism

Total domestic trips

227 100

238 297

241 750

284 966

311 153

Overnight visitors (tourists)

98 521

99 776

101 068

112 784

163 204

Same-day visitors (excursionists)

128 579

138 522

140 682

172 182

147 949

Nights in all types of accommodation

269 268

268 297

271 696

307 492

408 941

Hotels and similar establishments

..

..

..

..

..

Other collective establishments

..

..

..

..

..

Private accommodation

..

..

..

..

..

Inbound tourism

Total international arrivals

14 202

13 232

17 242

13 336

15 347

Overnight visitors (tourists)

..

..

..

..

..

Same-day visitors (excursionists)

..

..

..

..

..

Top markets

China

6 127

5 984

8 068

4 169

4 790

Japan

2 280

1 838

2 298

2 311

2 949

Chinese Taipei

644

518

833

926

1 115

United States

770

768

866

869

968

Hong-Kong, China

558

523

651

658

684

Nights in all types of accommodation

..

..

..

..

..

Hotels and similar establishments

..

..

..

..

..

Other collective establishments

..

..

..

..

..

Private accommodation

..

..

..

..

..

Outbound tourism

Total international departures

16 081

19 310

22 383

26 496

28 696

Overnight visitors (tourists)

..

..

..

..

..

Same-day visitors (excursionists)

..

..

..

..

..

Top destinations

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

..

TOURISM RECEIPTS AND EXPENDITURE, MILLION USD

Inbound tourism

Total international receipts

22 390

18 712

20 923

17 173

19 856

International travel receipts

17 460

14 798

16 886

13 368

15 319

International passenger transport receipts

4 930

3 913

4 038

3 805

4 537

Outbound tourism

Total international expenditure

26 136

27 957

29 817

34 453

34 769

International travel expenditure

23 192

25 270

27 243

31 691

31 973

International passenger transport expenditure

2 944

2 687

2 574

2 762

2 796

.. Not available

Source: OECD Tourism Statistics (Database).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934077255

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Korea: Enterprises and employment in tourism

Number of establishments

Number of persons employed1

2017

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Total

..

..

..

..

..

..

Tourism industries

33 089

230 334

235 604

261 978

280 270

..

Accommodation services for visitors

1 843

67 465

70 305

73 631

71 769

..

Hotels and similar establishments

..

..

..

..

..

..

Food and beverage serving industry

3 884

39 506

27 902

27 110

28 998

..

Passenger transport

..

..

..

..

..

..

Air passenger transport

..

..

..

..

..

..

Railways passenger transport

..

..

..

..

..

..

Road passenger transport

..

..

..

..

..

..

Water passenger transport

..

..

..

..

..

..

Passenger transport supporting services

..

..

..

..

..

..

Transport equipment rental

..

..

..

..

..

..

Travel agencies and other reservation services industry

19 944

69 400

84 558

98 421

107 209

..

Cultural industry

..

..

..

..

..

..

Sports and recreation industry

6 528

36 633

37 707

50 219

60 129

..

Retail trade of country-specific tourism characteristic goods

..

..

..

..

..

..

Other country-specific tourism industries

890

17 330

15 131

12 596

12 166

..

Other industries

..

..

..

..

..

..

.. Not available

1. Data refer to number of employees.

Source: OECD Tourism Statistics (Database).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888934077274

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