President Moon Jae-in called for efforts to attract more foreign tourists to his country Tuesday to help offset the country’s chronic deficit in tourism.
In a special meeting held in Songdo near Incheon International Airport, the president stressed a need to develop new appealing reasons for tourists to visit the country, such as a tour program themed after the world famous Korean Wave, or “hallyu.”
“The Republic of Korea is an attractive country. It offers both variety and dynamism in all aspects, ranging from history and culture to economy and environment,” the president told the meeting attended by some 150 officials from local tour agencies and related organizations.
“The favorable impressions toward the Republic of Korea for hallyu is even greater. Wherever we go, they talk about K-pop and K-dramas,” he added.
Tuesday’s meeting marked the first of its kind since Moon took office in May 2017. It comes after the country’s deficit in tourism more than doubled to US$13.8 billion in 2018, also marking the 17th consecutive year of deficit.
“The tourism industry is a key driving force of economic development. It is one of the world’s three largest export industries, whose employment inducement coefficient is more than double that of the manufacturing industry, and creates opportunities for foreign tourists to purchase our products,” Moon said.
The president insisted the efforts to boost the tourism industry must start from contemplating what appeals to foreign visitors.
“This is where our national tourism strategy must start. What about us can be most attractive to people from the rest of the world. When we truly understand our true value, we can properly set up a national tourism strategy,” he said.
To this end, Moon said the government will work to first turn one of the country’s metropolitan cities into a global tourist destination, such as Seoul and Jeju Island, while also developing four local cities as regional tourism hubs.
He noted the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas may be developed into a new eco-tourism destination for the vast range of wild life and ecosystems that have been well-preserved for as long as the two Koreas have been divided since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Moon also vowed stepped-up efforts to boost cooperation and exchanges with other countries, including India and the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“Asian countries and our country are the largest consumers of each other in tourism. Though it has yet to fully recover, the number of Chinese tourists is beginning to increase again, and with the successful conclusion of South Korea-China aviation talks, we now have created a new chance to further develop tourism between the two countries,” he said.
The president noted his upcoming special summit with the leaders of the 10 ASEAN countries will also enhance people-to-people exchanges between the countries. Moon is set to host the special South Korea-ASEAN summit in Busan, 450 kilometers south of Seoul, on Nov. 25-26, marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the South Korea-ASEAN dialogue relationship. (Yonhap)