China partly lifts ban on group tours to South Korea

Nov 29, 2017, 09:00 am

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By Hong Soon-do, Beijing correspondent, AsiaToday 

China has reportedly allowed travel agencies in Beijing and Shandong province to partly resume sales of group tours to South Korea that had been banned since March. As the lifting of the ban is expected to take place gradually in other Chinese regions, Chinese tourists, commonly known as "youker", are expected to flock to South Korea again. 

According to Beijing sources on Tuesday, China's National Tourism Administration held a meeting Tuesday, and decided to allow group tours for some of these regions. Xu Mingdao, president of Beijing-based travel agency Asidaer specialized in Korea tours, said, "The decision signals the end of the drought. The ban will be gradually lifted in other regions soon."

Chinese tourists who visited South Korea during Lunar New Year holiday just before the bans on group tours to South Korea this year. As China's tourism authorities partially lifted its bans, Chinese tourists are expected to flock to South Korea again./ Source: search engine Baidu

However, this measure does not apply to online travel agencies, including China's dominant online travel agency Ctrip. It seems that if online travel agencies were allowed to resume sales of group tours, the significance of the regional restrictions could fade. The ban will also remain on cruises and charter flights in South Korea. 

That's not all. China's tourism authorities have told tour agencies not to include Lotte Group units, such as Lotte Hotel and Lotte Duty Free, in tour packages. It seems they will keep their restrictions against Lotte Group, which provided land to the South Korean government for the installation of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system that Beijing opposed, for a long time. "Lotte Group instinctively feels that the Chinese authorities would continue their restrictions for a long time. Therefore, the sale of Lotte Mart stores will proceed as planned," said a lawyer from a Korean law firm that has been carrying out legal advice to Lotte Group. 

The latest decision by the Chinese authorities came after Seoul and Beijing agreed on Oct. 31 to ease tensions over THAAD. It also signals China's willingness to improve relations in the field of tourism with the upcoming bilateral summit next month. 

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