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Number of foreigners visiting Nami Island soars 45 pct Jan-July

All Headlines 17:29 August 26, 2016

CHUNCHEON, South Korea, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- The number of foreign visitors touring Nami Island, a popular theme park in the Bukhan River northeast of Seoul, soared 45 percent from a year earlier to 707,000 in the first seven months of the year, mainly due to the park's quality of service geared toward foreign tourists, its operator said Friday.

In July alone, 99,000 foreign tourists visited the island, also known as a major filming location of the 2002 hit Korean TV series "Winter Sonata," up 827 percent from the same month last year, an indication of a rebound in the local tourism industry hit by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak last year.

The number of foreign visitors to the island is expected to reach a record above the 1 million plateau this year.

During the reported period, the small half-moon-shaped island located in Chuncheon, the capital of South Korea's northeast province of Gangwon, was visited by 1.83 million South Korean and foreign travelers.

Travelers from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations claimed the lion's share of the number of foreign visitors to the island. Chinese travelers topped the list of foreign visitors with 36 percent, followed by Taiwan with 16 percent, Hong Kong with 12 percent, Vietnam with 11 percent, Indonesia with 9 percent, Thailand with 5 percent and Malaysia with 4 percent.

The island, which is 400,000 square meters with a circumference of 6 kilometers, became a theme park in October 1993.

Its unique natural environment, coupled with the long-lasting influence of the "Winter Sonata" TV drama that aired in early 2002, helped draw more foreign visitors to the island, with 3 million visitors, including about 1 million foreigners, coming to the island last year.

The operator of the island theme park, also named Nami Island Co., expects it will see 1.2 million foreign travelers this year.

Nami Island attributes the rising influx of foreign visitors to its quality marketing efforts, among others, that make foreigners satisfied about their stay in the island.

One of facilities on the island that the company has run since 2011 is "musholla," a place of worship for Muslim travelers. In 2014, a halal-certified restaurant began to serve them.

Tourist information on the island is even offered in Thai and Malay Indonesian. Vietnamese visitors can also expect to read information written in their own language in the near future.

Teaming up with foreign counterparts is one of the plans that the company has drawn up for the island's further development. Nami Island has agreed to cooperate with Hailing Island off the city of Yangjiang, China's Guangdong Province, in helping each other transform into better global tourist sites.

Another one is what it calls the project of the Bukhan River Tourism Belt, which encompasses other tourist resources along the river.

namsh@yna.co.kr
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