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The USA welcomes more South Korean visitors  6 Days ago

Source: USA Today  

South Korea may be filled with international tourists for the Winter Olympics, but there’s one country that South Koreans themselves like to visit in droves: the USA.

That bucks the trend right now of the USA seeing a drop in the number of international visitors.

According to preliminary figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department this month, the number of international arrivals in 2017 was down 3.6% from the previous year. That’s based on figures from January to August 2017, the latest available.

In that time, the USA welcomed 1.5 million visitors from South Korea, a 17.4% increase from the previous year. That’s the largest increase of any of the top 20 most tourist-generating countries.

That puts South Korea as the sixth most tourist-generating country.

Korean visitation rose each month of 2017. Meanwhile, there were notable drops in arrivals from Mexico and Canada. Arrivals from China and India, which still outrank South Korea as tourist-generating countries, slowed down.  

“That’s a significant growth and reinforces how important a market it is for us,” says Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, which was created under the Obama administration to promote inbound international travel.  

A group of travel organizations has formed the Visit U.S. Coalition to lobby the federal government to encourage international travel. The groups include the U.S. Travel Association, the America Gaming Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

The group is asking the federal government to support Brand USA. It is also requesting faster processing of visas for foreign visitors and for an increase in the number of Customs and Border Protection officers.

South Korea is one of the countries in the visa waiver program.

One city that has seen a major increase in South Korean visitors is New York.

New York City saw 386,000 visitors from South Korea in 2016, a 10.5% increase. That makes it one of the city’s highest growth markets. The forecast for 2017 is 398,000 visitors, a more modest increase. But the number of visitors from South Korea is projected to cross 400,000 by 2018.  

Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism arm, says visitation from South Korea has grown 73% since 2011.

“It’s a fascinating market, and it is interesting that they continue to buck the trend,” he says. “I think it has to do with their young nature, their economy has been doing very well, they like to travel, and they are pop culture-oriented and art-oriented."

The average age of a South Korean traveler to New York is 34 vs. 39 from all other overseas visitor markets. South Korean travelers tend to stay longer: 13 days vs. seven to nine days. They make the decision to travel a lot quicker than other markets as well: 78 days compared with 106. And they are interested in museums, national parks, concerts, plays, and musicals.

NYC & Company has a city to city marketing partnership with Seoul. The group has worked with Korean Air and Asiana Airlines to offer special fares between the two cities.

Brand USA has also made efforts to promote the USA to South Korea, as well as several other countries.

For instance, it will this week launch its second IMAX film “America’s Musical Journey” with Morgan Freeman and Aloe Blacc. It has also started GoUSA TV, a travel entertainment channel.

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