The following is a translation of a Jeju Ilbo column written by the dean of the Jeju campus of Korea Polytechnics, Um Jun Cheol. — Ed.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Jeju has been increasing rapidly. From January to November 2010, 730,000 foreign tourists visited Jeju. This is a 24.8 percent increase from the previous year’s 580,000. Most notably, the number of Chinese tourists has increased to more than 400,000, a jump of 61.6 percent during the same period. Among the 1.76 million Chinese who travelled to Korea in 2010, about 23 percent of them chose to come to Jeju. The increase in tourists from China also caused a large growth in the lodging, tour, food, and distribution industries.
The number of Chinese tourists traveling overseas surpassed 50 million in 2010. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts that this number will surpass 100 million by 2020. When that time comes, if we can attract just 1 percent of them, we will see 1 million Chinese tourists in Jeju. And if we attract 10 percent of them, the number will be as much as 10 million. If we want to attract Chinese tourists who are looking for overseas destinations, we have to survey thoroughly and know what they want. In the 1980s, the three most wanted consumer goods in China were watches, sewing machines and bicycles. In the 1990s, they sought color TVs, refrigerators, and washing machines. Now, Chinese want to have computers, to travel, and more than anything, cars. With the vitalization of the Chinese economy in recent years, it is only natural that the Chinese turn their eyes to traveling.
Countries compete fiercely with each other to attract the increasing number of Chinese tourists. Japan set a goal to bring in 3 million Chinese tourists to the country in 2012 and has actively engaged in various marketing activities. Japan will ease visa terms and conditions and they expect to expand the base market from 1.6 million to 16 million for visa applications from Chinese middle-class households. Japan’s distribution industry has also joined the effort to enhance hospitality and services for Chinese customers by reinforcing marketing activities. The employees of the industry are provided a small conversational Chinese handbook and instructed to memorize the phrases.
Taiwan has also eased the terms and conditions for tourist visas and introduced various Taiwan travel cards that offer multiple benefits for travelers during their stay. Singapore having opened a mega casino now competes with Macao. Since last September, Australia has broadcast TV advertisements targeting Chinese tourists. Germany and the United States have also joined the competition and are working hard to attract Chinese tourists, the newest big players in the tourism industry.
The competition among the regional institutions in Korea is heated, too. Gyeonggi Province intensively advertises popular tour sites and provides financial support for traditional food experience programs specifically for Chinese tourists. Busan Metropolitan City and Gyeongsang Province pay part of the lodging and transportation expenses, as well. A survey revealed that 81.7 percent of Chinese tourists were in favor of Jeju Island but reported inconveniences from the lack of lodging facilities, dissatisfaction with restaurants, and not enough shopping. If we want to convert Chinese tourists into prospective customers, a policy designed to simultaneously improve both the hardware and the quality of service is needed. If done correctly, Jeju can be remembered in the minds of tourists as a place to visit again.
At the end of last year, Jeju celebrated that Bao Jian Commodity, a health and beauty product manufacturer, selected Jeju Island to send 10,000 of its employees for incentive tours. This was the result of a coordinated effort between the Korea Tourism Organization and Jeju Province. The Jeju provincial government provides various support for private entities to build large-scale restaurants designed to serve Chinese tourists. To help them have a more pleasant shopping experience, the province hired and dispatched Chinese translators to major tourist streets in the cities of Jeju.
However, the tour contents that we have are not enough to satisfy the Chinese tourists. Besides the clean and natural scenery, there should be more that they can take home and hold on to in their memories for a long time. The island has a rich history and culture of storytelling that can be recreated and retold to deal with this problem. Wherever tourists visit, there should be vivid and live stories linked to the site. This is the way that Jeju can provide fun and satisfaction to its visitors.
Among Chinese tourists, 63.7 percent responded that shopping is their main motivation for visiting Korea. It has become apparent that we need to go beyond simple items like souvenirs. Korea needs to develop a range of high value-added products with stylish designs and excellent functions recognized by the world, and ones that tourists can buy in no other place but Korea. As an IT-strong country, if Korea can provide the opportunity to go beyond virtual reality to augmented reality, it will raise the satisfaction of foreign tourists. Now is the time for a paradigm shift in the tourism industry. We must use our creative power to prepare for the arrival of 100 million Chinese tourists travelling overseas.
(Translation by Suh Eunsook)
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