South Korea is now the third country in Asia to send most tourists to Spain, just behind Japan, in second place, and China, in first. Some 444,000 South Korean tourists visited the country up to August 2017 (the latest data available), which is 10 times more than in 2010 and an increase of 39.2% over the same period in the previous year.
On the contrary, about 20,400 Spaniards visited the Asian country, 18.4% more than in the previous period. The acting Secretary of State for Tourism, Isabel Oliver, announcing the planned state visit to strengthen ties with South Korea, said that this growth is possible thanks to good air travel connections, with direct flights to Madrid and Barcelona. “Korea is a fundamental emerging market,” highlighted Oliver, and insisted on the goal of her department to attract other tourists with “greater spending capacity,” within the general strategy of “diversifying the offer to maintain world leadership and competitiveness.”
In this context, and during the aforementioned State visit of the kings of Spain to the Asian country, the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, and the South Korean head of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Park Yang-woo, signed two Memoranda of Understanding to promote tourism, commerce and investments between the two countries. The memorandum dedicated to tourism cooperation (MoU) establishes a biannual program of Hispanic-Korean tourism, for 2020 and 2021, and the creation of a working group to facilitate its implementation. With it, both countries commit themselves to exchanging experiences, statistics and human resources in tourism promotion, digital marketing, market intelligence, development of intelligent tourist destinations and sustainability. They have also committed to promoting the development of joint initiatives to increase tourism movements between the two countries, with special emphasis on the gastronomic, cinematographic, medical and business-tourism segments.
“With the signing of this MoU, the cooperation is reinforced in a strategic area for this Government, which will undoubtedly favour the increase in tourist flows; we want South Korean tourists to opt more and more for Spain as the main destination of their trips to Europe,” said Minister Reyes Maroto, during which what was the first visit of the Spanish State to the Asian country in 23 years.
For his part, South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, said during the dinner, which he and his wife offered the kings of Spain, that his country “dreams” of achieving peace, and of the idea of establishing a trail in the demilitarized zone of the north, to be visited by citizens from all over the world, as is the case with the Camino de Santiago. This reference was not accidental, since in the last five years, 23,000 South Koreans have made this pilgrimage.
So, South Korea and Spain become twinned countries, whilst the tourism and leisure industry, predictably, will gain new visitors and users in the near future.