South Korea

First Chinese cruise to South Korea underbooked in six years due to safety and health concerns

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A market on Jeju island draws customers with eye-catching scrolls in Chinese, Korean and other languages ​​after the end of the “THAAD” era. Photo: VCG

After six years, South Korea ushered in the first cruise ship departing from China to Jeju Island. However, Chinese analysts were cautiously optimistic about the sector’s outlook as load factors fell short of expectations due to political uncertainty in the bilateral relationship.

Set sail from Shanghai Baoshan Port, blue dream star According to the official website of Blue Dream Cruises in China, the five-day journey to Nagasaki, Japan via Jeju Island, South Korea has officially started.

This is the first cruise ship to South Korea since China resumed the third batch of group tours in 78 countries and regions in August.

The Jeju Island government announced that as of August 17, a total of 267 cruise ships departing from China had applied to berth at Jeju Port and Gangting Port, indicating that there may be a “tide” of Chinese group tourists.

The Global Times learned blue dream star Carried fewer than 800 passengers during a stopover in South Korea. The 25,000-ton cruise ship can carry 1,053 passengers.

The cruise line restarted service on May 26 and has so far operated 16 voyages serving more than 22,000 passengers. According to a report from Chinanews.com on August 19, during the peak summer season, every cruise on the ship was fully loaded.

“My family will cancel our reservations for upcoming trips to South Korea and Japan, even though it will cost us 70 percent of the full price,” Feng Xiaorui, a tourist from Wuxi, east China’s Jiangsu province, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Safety and health issues are the top concerns of Chinese tourists. Feng said the family feared for their health and safety as Japan was dumping nuclear-contaminated water into the sea.

“At the moment, I prefer domestic travel,” she said. “Korea doesn’t seem to be safe either… Also, traveling in China is really fun and affordable,” she added.

South Korea’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the prolonged suspension of international cruise services between China and South Korea due to the COVID-19 outbreak and political issues.

Xiang Haoyu, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said in an earlier interview with the Global Times that the current South Korean government’s China policy has had a negative impact on Chinese tourists’ perceptions of South Korea.

According to the news media News.cn on August 15, citing the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea in the first half of this year was 546,000, only 19.5% of the first half of 2019.

According to data released by the organization on August 14, South Korea’s tourism deficit in the first half of this year exceeded US$4.65 billion, the highest level since the first half of 2018.

South Korea’s tourism industry, which relies heavily on Chinese tourists, experienced its biggest deficit in 2017, when it was about $14.7 billion. The Chinese government previously issued a group travel ban over a dispute over terminal high-altitude area defense.

Li Tianguo, an associate professor at the China National Institute for International Strategy, said that China attaches great importance to China-South Korea economic and trade relations, and hopes to maintain strategic communication with South Korea, resolve differences, strengthen economic exchanges, and achieve mutual benefit and win-win results. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times on Wednesday.

According to a report released by travel platform Ctrip, Chinese tourists now prefer domestic travel. During the peak period of summer vacation, the number of ticket bookings for domestic tourist attractions increased by 315% compared with 2019.

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