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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Seoul’s Tourism Boom

Philippe Teuwen

We’re a week away from the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s annual Global Tourism Summit. While the state will update its latest strategies to attract visitors, other locations are considering similar plans. And that includes the capital of South Korea.

Tourism is a growth industry for Seoul. Last year, Seoul made number seven on Conde Nast Traveler’s list of top ten most visited cities.

The year before, the city government reported nearly 13.5 million foreigners took a trip to the South Korean capital . . . a new record.

Last week, the city hosted a UN tourism conference about managing the explosive growth underway in urban tourism. The Seoul government also announced some ambitious goals for growth in the tourism industry.

Within five years, city officials want to attract 23 million foreign visitors – along with 27 million domestic tourists. Add that up and it comes to 50 million people, but officials say they want to reach that number with care — one saying they want to develop “tourism in the city in a way that is balanced . . . minimizing overcrowding and problems with too many tourists.”

To help, the government plans to use smart technology — building out virtual reality programs to prepare visitors before they arrive, and devising systems to show which destinations have fewer crowds once visitors get to the city.

Credit travel oriented / Flickr

Officials will also designate 20 “must-see destinations” that go beyond shopping — which is already a big draw.

In a new development, Seoul’s government wants to encourage lower-income Koreans to come to the city, and is willing to pay for it, subsidizing travel by families who otherwise couldn’t afford the trip.

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