Beijing may lift unofficial ban on group tours to South Korea as early as this week as bilateral ties with Seoul have improved significantly under new President Moon Jae-in who has been more prudent with deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which China fears could be used for surveillance beyond North Korea.
According to multiple Korean travel agencies, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) will round up the country’s top 20 travel agencies in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, on Wednesday for an unofficial meeting. The last time they were called upon in one place on March 15, the authority had them stop arranging group tours to Korea after Seoul proceeded to bring in the missile shield from the U.S.
The Korean tourism industry that was hit hard by the travel ban is hopeful of lifting amid signs of recovery in bilateral ties under the liberal president who is more engaging toward North Korea and questions the effectiveness of the THAAD system.
“We are hopeful for actions from the meeting,” said one executive of a Korean travel agency that has been invited to the meeting.
Another Korean travel agency active in China was tipped by its Chinese counterparts to be ready for normalized business starting with group tours to Jeju where visa issues are unnecessary from this month.
Popular destinations such as Jeju and duty-free shops whose revenues hinged largely on Chinese visitors had been idle for the last few months after Chinese group tourists stopped coming.
By Lim Young-sin and Yeon Gyu-wook
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]