South Korea’s tourism boom leaves Thailand in the dust

Photo courtesy of The Nation

South Korea witnessed a staggering 87% surge in foreign arrivals this year but Thai visitors tell a different story. According to recent data from the Korea Tourism Organisation, arrivals from Thailand have plummeted by over 21% from last year, totalling just 119,000 visitors from January to April.

The decline has raised eyebrows across the tourism industry, with experts pointing fingers at South Korea’s strict new travel rules under the K-ETA system. This electronic authorisation system, implemented to curb illegal immigration, requires visa-free travellers, including many Thais, to secure approval before setting foot in the country.

“The surge in Chinese and Japanese tourists highlights a stark contrast. While South Korea aims for tighter controls, neighbouring countries like Japan and China are reaping the benefits with easier entry policies.”

Critics argue that the K-ETA system may be doing more harm than good, as frustrated Thai travellers turn to more welcoming destinations. Complaints have surged on social media, with tales of families forced to cancel trips and business ventures derailed due to entry denials.

Despite mounting pressure, South Korean authorities defend K-ETA, citing a threefold increase in illegal Thai residents over the past eight years. Yet, calls for reforms persist, urging exemptions or pilot schemes to ease the entry process for key tourist markets.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has appealed for a temporary K-ETA waiver for Thailand, underscoring their ambition to attract 20 million tourists this year, reported The Nation.

“It’s crucial to balance security and tourism appeal.”

In related news, zero-dollar tours, notorious for their rock-bottom prices, are once again plaguing Thailand’s tourism sector and posing unfair competition for Thai operations, particularly targeting visitors from China, Russia, and India.

In other news, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports plans to request a 1 billion baht budget from the central emergency reserve fund to develop new tourism routes linking major cities to 55 notable destinations in a move to establish long-term tourism strategies.

Thailand NewsTourism News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

Related Articles