The blog koreaBANG comes out with some good stuff every now and then. Added bonus? They translate some Korean reader comments into English. Yesterday they outlined MBC’s exposé on how some tourists (namely from that country just across the Yellow Sea) were being “taken for a ride” and how it could be damaging Korea’s long-term reputation as a tourist destination.
Korean tourism has made great strides over the past ten years, from 4.8 million tourists (or “number of arrivals”) in 2003 to 12.2 million in 2013. However, despite the growth, there is some evidence that Korea may not be getting a lot of value from the increased numbers. Part of it is structural (i.e. lower income of Chines visitors vis-à-vis Japanese tourists, the rising value of the won, etc.), however, some of it may be due to unscrupulous Korean merchants. According to the MBC report a lot of tourists are getting scammed, leaving a bad taste in tourists’ mouths and threatening Korea’s long-term tourism growth:
However, Korea may not be drawing as much value from their tourist numbers than they perhaps should. According to the MBC report a lot of tourists are getting scammed, leaving a bad taste
The shop owner: “This jacket is 120,000 won. The price is so cheap compared to its high quality.” The Chinese man paid about 210,000 won for 3 pieces of clothing.
The journalist tried buying the same clothes in the same shop.
(Journalist: “How much is it?”)
Shop owner: “You can take it for 55,000 won, if you pay cash.” When the journalist bought the same clothes that the Chinese man did, the price was about 100,000 won cheaper.
… Police investigated a Korean restaurant for Chinese tourists only, qualified as an outstanding restaurant by Tourism Board Organization. In the kitchen they found food that had passed the expiration date, and even leftovers that had been stored in the freezer.
Police: “3 years has passed (since the expiration date), 3 years.”
The same problem is occurring with accommodations. Among 70% with quality credentials have been reported for not meeting the requirements of a quality guarantee. Organizations awarding these credentials can also not be trusted…
The government has decided to loosen many regulations in order to raise the number of foreign tourists to 20 million by 2017. However, people point out that the government should combine all the quality assurance systems into one, and run it well.
So, there could be some long-term issues with Korean tourism and greater infrastructure integrity needs to be maintained while the industry continues to grow. So, who has Korea decided to have helm the ship in these challenging waters? Well, one important appointee is a former actor named Johnny Yune. Ah, Johnny. A very colorful guy who’s Korean-American (i.e. he’s got a U.S. passport), got his big break when he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1980s and starred in the comedy movie “They Call Me Bruce?” (a surprising hit movie making almost $17M in only 325 screens in 1982). He also had his own talk show on some UHF channel called “The Johnny Yune Show.” Wow, can’t make this stuff up! Well, there’s always a chance that Johnny will pull a Reagan (another former actor) and perform better than expected.
A couple more interesting Korean tourism factoids:
- Russians apparently spend a lot of money in Korea while they are visiting. Apparently for “medical tourism” (yes, plastic surgery is counted in those “medical tourism” numbers).
- As far as Korea’s tourism has come, its overall size is still small compared to the rest of the OECD. Korea’s direct tourism industry accounts for about 2% of the GDP, whereas the OECD’s average is 4.7%. However, that isn’t the median (which is probably somewhere around 3.8 to 4.0%). The outlier Greece has skewed the average a bit with its whopping 16% of GDP. Wow, they sure are getting all they can out of some warm weather and some ancient ruins.