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Inbound travelers fall 6.8 pct in 2015 due to MERS

All News 09:53 January 19, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- The number of foreign travelers to South Korea slipped in 2015 for the first time in 12 years in the wake of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, the state-run tourism agency said Tuesday.

A total of 13.23 million foreigners visited the nation in 2015, down 6.8 percent from a year ago, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said.

The number of travelers rose about 10 percent in the first five months, but it plummeted 40 percent from June to August following the first MERS outbreak in late May, the KTO said.

Travelers started to come back to Korea in September and their number rose 5 percent on-year in October thanks to shoppers who flocked to massive discount events held by retailers.

The viral disease took the heaviest toll on the numbers of Chinese tourists, who canceled their flights and tour packages in the peak summer season.

The total number of Chinese travelers to the nation declined 2.3 percent to 5.98 million last year, it said.

Japanese travelers also decreased as the falling yen further dampened their travel sentiments, marking a 19.4 percent drop to 1.83 million.

In contrast, more Koreans traveled abroad to take advantage of the cheaper airfares offered by low-cost carriers and extended holidays. The number of outbound travelers rose 20.1 percent to 19.31 million in 2015.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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