Per capita spending by foreign travelers visiting South Korea dropped 12.1 percent on year to the level last seen a decade ago in the first quarter following a plunge in the number of Chinese visitors who used to be the most lavish spenders, data showed.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization on Tuesday, a foreign visitor to Korea spent an average $1,268 in the January-March period, down 12.1 percent from a year ago. It marked the fourth straight quarter of an on-year dip, retreating to the level 10 years ago when each foreigner spent an average $1,224 in 2009 and $1,298 in 2010.
The spending soared to peak at $1,713 in 2015 but soon the Korean tourism market was hit by a sharp fall in big-spending Chinese tourists to the country following the diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over the installation of U.S. anti-missile shield system. The spending by a foreign traveler then averaged at $1,625 in 2016, $1,482 in 2017, and $1,342 in 2018.
From January to March, visitors from China spent $1,735 in Korea, from Taiwan $1,131, from the U.S. $1,103, from Hong Kong $1,049, and from Japan $772.
Meanwhile, foreigners stayed in Korea for an average 6.9 days, slightly down from a week last year. Most of them – 59.2 percent – revisited the country, and a majority of 93.9 percent said they were satisfied with their travel experiences in the country.
By Cha Chang-hee and Lee Ha-yeon
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