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Revitalizing South Korea's tourism industry Revitalizing South Korea's tourism industry
by Joseph Gatt
2019-04-20 09:08:37
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South Korea has two major problems when it comes to the tourism industry: the weather, and geography. South Korean weather is made up of cold and dry winters and hot and humid summers, meaning tourists tend to avoid South Korea for the weather. In terms of geography, South Korea is surrounded by hard-working neighbors who only get five days paid vacation a year. Tourists need both time and money, as you need money to travel, but China and Japan don't have Europe's five weeks paid holidays.

skor1_400But geography and the weather are not defeating factors for the tourism industry. After all, some countries have much hotter summers or much colder winters, yet seem to attract their load of tourists. Of course touristic countries are mostly located in Europe and the Mediterranean, but countries as far South as Latin America have their load of tourists.

So obviously South Korea needs to focus on tourists from the middle class, anywhere from India to Southeast Asia to Australia to the Middle East to Europe to North and South America. Right now, it's mostly Chinese and Japanese tourists who visit Korea on bank holidays. Korea needs to, like Thailand and Vietnam, Malaysia or Singapore or Indonesia, invite more tourists from Europe or Australia who are on holiday from work, have time and money to spend on a holiday.

What are Korea's advantages when it comes to tourism? A very good transportation system, a high density of hotels and restaurants, good facilities, and a variety of sights and activities. You can ski in Korea, you can surf in Korea, you can go to the beach in Korea, you can hike in Korea, and all activities go with perfect facilities such as clean toilets, availability of cheap food and drink, clean sights.

But what does Korea not have? The party-like atmosphere tourists tend to look for. If you go to Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam or Thailand, you see all kinds of tourists go crazy. Festive moods in night clubs, festive moods at concerts, festive moods at hostels and hotels. Korea however offers a dark and somber mood for tourists. Tourists are on a break from the stresses of work and want a fun-loving party-like atmosphere, which Korea tends not to provide.

So if Korea wants to attract more tourists, here are my policy recommendations. First, night clubs should be all inclusive, because one of the main complaints European and other tourists have about Korea is that many night clubs don't allow foreigners to go in.

Beaches and ski resorts should also have more festive moods, invite DJs to put on a show and invite people, both Korean and foreigners to relax.

The third main problem is the food experience, and Korea should provide things like western sandwiches or pizza for tourists who don't always want to taste Korean food or get tired of Korean food. Hotels and coffee shops should include European breakfast, either French-style or British-style, as tourists are not always comfortable with Korean breakfast.

The language factor is another big barrier to tourists in Korea. Pharmacists, staff at hotels and staff at resorts should have a decent command of English, not the TOEIC kind, but the kind that enables them to communicate with tourists with German, Malaysian, Australia, New Zealander or Russian accents.

Finally, staff at tourism venues should be trained to be happy and relaxed. Tourists are on a break from work and want to see Korean staff who is smiling, happy to see tourists and very hospitable.

Of course the tourism industry is not an easy industry. Middle Eastern tourists prefer shopping and want Halal food, because Middle Eastern countries tend to lack shopping malls and the quality of food and electronics is not always good in the Middle East, so South Koreans should perhaps aim high quality Middle Eastern fashion for Middle Eastern tourists. Europeans, North Americans, Australians and New Zealanders want to party like animals and won't go any place that is not fun. Indians and Southeast Asians will like Korea because it's very clean, but want shopping and slow sightseeing, and then men want to go clubbing.

Korea has the advantage of having the luxury to bring tourists twice a year: during the skiing season in the winter and during the beach season in the summer. But Korea certainly won't attract many tourists by banning foreigners from night clubs and giving foreigners the cold shoulder when they ask for directions, while serving them with a frown on their faces.    

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