Interest in international travel by Koreans has been spurred by rapidly rising GDP, gradual increases in leisure time, heightened globalization, and greater awareness and interest in developments outside the Korean peninsula. Korea's per capita GDP has risen to almost USD 19,624 in 2008, placing it securely in the ranks of middle-income countries. Korean consumer confidence also has increased along with a sharp rise in discretionary spending for such activities as overseas travel for both business and leisure. Korea has also begun to upgrade its domestic tourism sector infrastructure. Despite current economic concerns, we expect to see continued increases in travel resulting from Korea’s recent addition to the list of U.S. Visa Waiver Program countries.
The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) figures indicate that as of November 2008, approximatley 9.6 million Koreans traveled to other countries. Out of the top five destinations for Koreans, China ranked number one, followed by Japan, Hong Kong and the United States.
With these changing cultural and income factors, conditions look promising for more growth in the outbound Korean travel market. Koreans are showing an increased desire to travel to the U.S. despite the lengthy travel time and the relatively high airfares required to make the trip. The Korean mass media is influenced by U.S. movies, advertising, popular culture, and the Internet, which continue to stimulate Koreans' interest in U.S. travel destinations. Koreans overwhelmingly choose the U.S. as a non- Asian long-haul destination because of the diversity of tourism opportunities not easily available back home, including U.S.-style shopping, theme parks, cultural attractions in major U.S. cities, relatively inexpensive golf experiences, and the major U.S. national parks.
According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, as of November 2008, 9,688,802 Koreans traveled abroad. The number has decreased compared to the same period in 2007, as Korea also joined the downfall of the world economy. Korean travelers to the U.S. have varied greatly over the past decade. Prior to the Asian financial crisis in 1997, 806,264 Koreans traveled to the U.S., and then sharply decreased. Since then, the numbers slowly picked back up to 719,227 by 2000. Korea joined the Visa Waiver Program in November 2008, which will increase the number of Korean travelers to the U.S. once the Korean economy is stabilized. As reported by the U.S. International Trade Administration, Korea is currently the seventh-largest source of inbound travel to the U.S., behind Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and France.
- High quality group package tours to the U.S.
- Luxury packages catering to Korean single, professional women travelling for leisure
- Cultural tours / natural scenic tour packages designed for Korean travelers
- Family vacation packages
Based on the strong ties with the U.S. and the variety of activities, climates, and cultural experiences we offer, the U.S. is by far the leading non-Asian destination for Koreans. Travelers to the U.S. account for 5.8 percent of the Korean outbound tourism market. Korean travel industry sources indicate that Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle are the most popular U.S. destinations, followed by the East Coast New York-Washington D.C corridor. United Airlines expanded its routes to include non-stop service between Seoul and San Francisco in March 2006; Korean Air inaugurated direct non-stop flights between Seoul and Las Vegas in September 2006; Delta Air Lines launched its direct link between Seoul and Atlanta in June 2007; and Korean Air has increased the frequency of service from Seoul to its Honolulu and Dallas markets. Several other carriers are also studying expansion of services between the two countries. Koreans usually travel to the U.S. on package group tours or individually to visit their friends, families, and relatives.
The market for group tours has significant untapped demand for higher-class services that provide a variety of activities and cater to the more sophisticated tastes of seasoned Korean travelers. Koreans who travel to the U.S. are very much interested in visiting not only museums and amusement parks, but in looking for bargains at fashion outlets, playing golf, and visiting wineries, for example.