SOUTH KOREA. Chinese visitor numbers rose +37.6% year-on-year in October, sustaining the recent recovery in arrivals following last year’s slump driven by Beijing’s ban on group tours to South Korea during the height of the THAAD missile dispute.

The latest figures from the Korea Tourism Organization show that Chinese visitors represented 31.1% of all arrivals to South Korea in October, with more than 475,000 entering the country. Overall Chinese visits were up +12.2% in the first ten months of the year, following a slow start due to the THAAD row.

Visitor arrivals in October 2018 by gender and selected nationality. Source: Korea Tourism Organization

Visitor arrivals by selected nationality and purpose for October 2018. Source: Korea Tourism Organization

However, arrivals from China are still far short of pre-THAAD numbers. In October 2016, almost 681,000 Chinese visitors entered South Korea, 42.9% of the total.

While Korean duty free retailers will be buoyed by the latest increases, prospects for 2019 are uncertain. Beijing’s new e-commerce law, due to come into force on 1 January 2019, threatens to weaken severely the daigou or personal-shopping industry that accounts for a large number of Chinese visits to South Korea. 

Selected nationality visitor arrivals by purpose for first ten months. Source: Korea Tourism Organization

Japanese visitor flurry

Japanese visits leapt +61.7% year-on-year in October to over 290,000. Japan is the second-biggest generator of visitors to South Korea and accounted for 19.0% of arrivals in the month, up from 15.4% in October 2017.

Asia Pacific visitors continue to represent the vast majority of arrivals to South Korea, with 1,250,000 visits from the region comprising 81.8% of the total in October.

Departures by Koreans rose +5.2% year-on-year in October to 2,347,876. For the first ten months they increased by +9.3% to over 23 million.

Visitor arrivals by gender for first ten months. Source: Korea Tourism Organization

Visitor arrivals by age for October 2018 Source: Korea Tourism Organization

Visitor arrivals by age for first ten months. Source: Korea Tourism Organization

Outbound departures of Korean nationals by gender for the first ten months of 2018. Source: Korea Tourism Organization

Outbound departures of Korean nationals by age for the first ten months of 2018 Source: Korea Tourism Organization