The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has reported that less than 10,000 travellers a month have visited South Korea since last April when the coronavirus pandemic started.
It’s a massive 99% decline from 1.33m tourists that visited the country in January 2020 before the pandemic.
From April to December, the country welcomed only 9,722 visitors per month. South Korea relies on China for the tourist market, but on average, the country saw only 340 Chinese residents per month. Japanese and Taiwanese visitors each averaged 42 a month. 3,470 people a month came from the US, but it’s attributable to military bases in the country.
According to KTO, there are no signs of immediate tourism recovery, and any future projections are difficult. “We set targets for foreign tourists by region at the beginning of each year, but it seems meaningless to set targets since we do not know when tourism exchanges will resume this year,» it added.
The gaming industry feels the lack of tourists especially keenly. Local residents are allowed to gamble in Kangwon Land only, while the remaining casino industry relies on foreign visitors. Jeju island houses eight casinos and they reported a total of 96% year-on-year decline in tourism for the period encompassing February-December 2020.
The COVID-19 safety measures and venue closures also impacted the casinos. Paradise Co, a foreigner-only casino operator, lost KRW109.9bn ($98.4m) for the year 2020, while Grand Korea Leisure reported a loss of KRW64.3bn.