South Korea announced yesterday that it decided to waive visa fees for tourists from China and Southeast Asia in a hope to boost tourism, which took a hit in the wake of the MERS outbreak.
Nearly 70 thousand tourists cancelled their plans to visit the land of K-pop last month, according to Tencent News. Around 300 Chinese nationals were reported to have cancelled their flights immediately after the outbreak was reported at the end of May.
Now, visas which had already been issued between March 1 and June 30 will be automatically extended for another three months, the Justice Ministry said. These visas had been issued to more than a million tourists.
Effective from July 6 through to September 30, the country will waive the US$15 visa fees for group-travelling tourists from countries including China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. Meanwhile, Chinese tourists travelling in groups with Japanese visas will be allowed to enter South Korea and stay for up to 15 days without a local visa.
As of yesterday, there had been no new cases of MERS reported since Tuesday, when the recorded number of infections was 182, according to Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Although July and August tend to be busy travel times for Korea, it is predicted that the number of incoming tourists will be greatly lowered compared to the same period last year.
Indeed, Jeju Island, a famous tourist resort island in Southern Korea, saw a 46 percent drop in Chinese tourists last month when compared to the same period last year.
If the number of foreign travellers drops by half, the country’s earnings may go down by up to US$2.3 billion, vice tourism minister Kim Chong said.
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[Image via czt.cc]
By Joyce Ng