South Korea tourism hit hard by THAAD-related boycott

2017-04-26 01:15:25 GMT2017-04-26 09:15:25(Beijing Time) Agencies

South Korea's tourist industry has been hammered by China's boycott over the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, with visitor numbers from China down 40 percent year-on-year in March, statistics showed on Tuesday.

Usually, more than half of tourists to South Korea are from China, but little more than 360,000 visited last month, compared with more than 600,000 a year earlier.

Total visitor numbers fell 11.2 percent year-on-year to 1.23 million, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said.

The declines from China have hurt duty-free shops in South Korea, with Chinese customers accounting for 70 percent of their total sales, a Lotte spokeswoman said.

Lotte Duty Free has seen sales to Chinese customers fall 40 percent year-on-year since mid-March.

The South Korean retail giant has had to shut down 85 of its 99 stores in China due to boycott calls after the group agreed to provide a golf course in South Korea as a site for THAAD.Its losses as a result will reportedly hit $1 billion in the first half of this year.

South Korea has been struggling to fill the gap with promotion campaigns to attract more visitors from other markets such as Japan and Southeast Asia.

But rising regional tensions over North Korea have deterred Japanese travelers.

Yonhap News Agency said a tourism ministry tally showed Japanese visitors rising some 20 percent year-on-year up to early April. But the growth rate fell to between 2 percent and 3 percent after tensions spiked, according to the report.

"Japanese tourists are putting off their trips to this country, apparently because of overblown Japanese media reports about tensions on the Korean peninsula," Yonhap quoted a KTO official as saying.

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