By Somluck Srimalee
By the end of 2017, South Korea investors had expanded their investments in hotels and restaurants in Asean countries to US$5 million, up 92 per cent from the US$2.6 million recorded in 2015.
They also increased their investment in leisure and sports in Asean to US$2.9 million in 2017, up 383 per cent from a combined investment budget of US$600,000 in 2015, Lee Hyuk, secretary general of the Asean-Korea Centre, said in an interview with The Nation yesterday in Seoul, South Korea.
He said that the number of tourists from Asean countries and South Korea had increased in 2017, The number of travellers reached 9.64 million, an increase of 8.07 per cent from the 8.92 million in 2016. Up to 7.5 million of the total 9.64 million were South Koreans visiting Asean countries. The rest were Asean tourists visiting South Korea that year.
“We hope that both Asean and South Korean tourism and investment will increase following our cooperation to promote the tourist investment between the two sides,” he said.
Top three counties for South Koreans visiting Asean were Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines last year. Thailand was ranked top as the biggest source market for Asean tourists going to South Korea, followed by the Philippines and Vietnam.
The number of tourists travelling between Thailand and South Korea reached 2.208 million in at the end of 2017, up 14 per cent from the 1.934 million in 2016.
Up to 1.709 million tourists of the total 2.208 million tourists were South Koreans visiting Thailand, with 499,000 Thais visiting South Korea, Lee said.
Lee said that South Korea has been expanding its collaborative efforts with the Asean bloc in various fields under President Moon Jae-in’s “New Southern Policy” unveiled last November to further strengthen the Asean-Korea partnership. Among other initiatives, people-to-people exchanges through travel is considered one of the most effective tools in connecting the peoples of Asean and South Korea.
Following the collaboration between Asean and South Korea, the Asean-Korea Centre is conducting its first seminar, Asean-Korea Tourism Investment, in Seoul. The event, which opens today and ends tomorrow, is for investors from the Asean and South Korean tourism sectors to share their ideas on developing tourism and investment opportunities for both sides.
The event will provide up-to-date information on investment environment and opportunities in tourism industries of the 10 Asean member states. It will be followed by a one-on-one meeting between potential Korea investors and tourism representatives from Asean states from the public and private sectors.
In line with the Asean Tourism Marketing strategy 2017-2020, the most notable trend in the Asean tourism industry is the changes in visitors’ expectation. Today’s travellers seek special experience. For example, free independent travel (FIT) is becoming more popular, at the expense of group tours, Lee said.
Lee said tourism is one of the key drivers of the Asean economy. In 2017, Asean nations recorded a total of 120 million international arrivals. It is estimated that tourism contributes 12.4 per cent of GDP in Asean, which is about four per cent higher than other regions in the world.
Thailand has also seen the number of tourists increasing from 32.6 million in 2016 to 35.4 million last year. The contribution of the Thai tourist industry to its GDP was 6.5 per cent ten years ago , compared to 10 per cent today.
“When we look at the trends, we can say that tourism will increasingly be an important industy for the regional economy. This is the best sector for our cooperation,” Lee added.