(Yomiuri: January 20, 2016 – p. 9)
The Korea Tourism Organization announced on Jan. 19 that Japanese visitors to South Korea in 2015 numbered 1.83 million, which is 19.4% lower than the previous year. In addition to the deterioration of Japan-South Korea ties, the depreciation of the yen overlapped with the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, resulting in a two-digit year-on-year decline for the third consecutive year. This is the first time for Japanese visitors to drop below 2 million since 2003.
The overall number of foreign visitors to South Korea [in 2015] decreased by 6.8% year on year to 13.23 million due to MERS and other factors. This is the first time for the total figure to drop in 12 years. The number of Chinese tourists to South Korea, which doubled between 2012 and 2014, also declined by 2.3% to 5.98 million.
According to the manager in charge of Japan at the Korea Tourism Organization, the main reason for the substantial decrease in Japanese tourists was the decline in the number of group travelers. The manager predicted that Japanese tourist numbers would rebound, saying “With the Japan-South Korea agreement on the comfort women, there is an opportunity to improve Japan-South Korea relations, and South Korean travel agencies are receiving many requests for estimates for group travel from March.” Apparently, this year [the travel industry] is focusing on developing products that highlight cultural exchange between regional cities in Japan and South Korea.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, Korean visitors to Japan in 2015 posted a new high of 4 million, a 45.3% increase over the previous year. Kansai, Kyushu, and Okinawa were particularly popular destinations. The increase in South Korean visitors was caused by not only the depreciation of the yen but also the expansion of low-cost carrier (LCC) routes.