More South Koreans than Chinese visit Vietnam in January

By Nguyen Quy   February 3, 2019 | 10:39 pm PT
More South Koreans than Chinese visit Vietnam in January
South Korean tourists are seen at Da Nang International Airport in June 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
South Koreans have surpassed Chinese tourists for the first time to become the biggest feeder market for Vietnamese tourism.

January 2019 saw the number of South Korean visitors shoot up 23 percent year-on-year to 389,000, accounting for a quarter of Vietnam’s total international tourist arrivals for the month, according to the General Statistics Office.

Correspondingly, the number of Chinese tourists to Vietnam dropped 10.7 percent to 373,500, marking the first time that South Korea has overtaken its neighbor to become a key driver of Vietnam’s tourism boom.

Among several factors that are deemed to have led to the robust growth in South Korean interest in Vietnam is the successful run of the Vietnamese football team under coach Park Hang-seo. This seems to have sparked a greater mutual interest in each other's country among both populations.

A 15-day visa waiver for South Korean tourists to Vietnam and an increase in the frequency of direct flights connecting major cities in both countries have also contributed to making Vietnam the number one choice for South Korean tourists. 

South Koreans are among the biggest groups of visitors to Vietnam in recent years, with more than 3.4 million arrivals last year, a 44 percent year-on-year increase, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

"Young Vietnamese are enamored with Korean culture, even more than American culture," Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post recently quoted Mark Gwyther, founder of MGT Management Consulting, a tourism consultancy in Ho Chi Minh City, as saying.

"K-pop musicians sell out large arenas. Korean soap operas have been popular on local television for years. Korean movies are in theaters every week. Korean barbecue and noodle restaurants can be found all over the major cities and even appear in smaller cities," Gwyther said.

South Korea is also the biggest foreign investor in Vietnam, with electronics giant Samsung leading Vietnamese exports.

Vietnam’s international arrivals in the first month of 2019 are estimated to have hit 1.5 million, a pickup of five percent over the same period last year.

The increase is also linked to increasing numbers of overseas Vietnamese returning home for Tet, the Lunar New Year festival, which falls in the first week of February this year, and an increase in the number of visitors from Europe, the U.S and Australia coming to Vietnam during the winter break.

Vietnam has targeted its tourism sector becoming a key contributor to the national economy by 2020, when the country is expected to receive up to 20 million foreign visitors and earn $35 billion in tourism revenue.

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