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North Korea makes push to attract Taiwanese tourists North Korea makes push to attract Taiwanese tourists Taipei, July 19 (CNA) In an effort to attract more Taiwanese tourists to North Korea, the country opened an official tourism promotion center in Taipei Thursday. Following the opening ceremony, two tour group packages were offered to Taiwanese who now can directly book packages to visit the hermit kingdom. The two packages, NT$30,000 (about US$1,000) for a three-night tour and NT$50,000 for a five-night stay, were the first to be offered by the center -- a joint venture between a North Korean government-sponsored travel agency and Taipei-based Chung Hsing Travel Service. All the destinations included in the two tour group packages are scenic spots authorized by North Korea's tourism bureau to target foreign visitors, an executive of the center said. According to the executive, Chinese and Russian tourists make up the bulk of foreign visitors to North Korea. Fewer than 1,000 Taiwanese tourists visit per year, he noted. According to Chung Hsing Travel Service Chairman Ringo Lee (李奇嶽), there are no direct flights between Taiwan and Pyongyang at present and travelers bound for North Korea have to transfer in China. Efforts are being be made to launch direct chartered flights between Taiwan and Pyongyang and there will be private flights to serve high-end customers, he said.
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Prior months have all been compared to pre-travel ban months when Chinese tourism to South Korea was still booming. In other words, anything other than at least moderately positive YoY growth last month would have been an enormous disappointment. It is also unclear if South Korea’s Ministry of Justice’s figures are calculated differently from those of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), which normally is the department to report South Korean tourism statistics. KTO has yet to release its arrival figures for March. In comparison, KTO reported 360,782 Chinese arrivals in March 2017 and 601,671 in the same period 2016. Even though March is far from a return to pre-travel ban levels, it does give South Korean tourism stakeholders reason for optimism. Despite indications that a lifting of the travel ban was imminent, Chinese travel to South Korea is still limited to independent travelers, including business travelers. In other words, if nothing changes, all the growth in the months to come will be from Chinese independent travelers—a market segment that is more profitable and less sensitive to diplomatic disputes. South Korea’s travel ban has undoubtedly been bad news for its tourism sector, but stakeholders can take some solace in that it is most likely accelerating the shift toward Chinese independent travel to the country. With no other option, travelers who may have been on the fence about traveling independently before are most certainly doing so now.
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