By Lee Hyo-sik
South Korea will hold a massive publicity event later this month to promote itself as one of the world’s major tourist destinations, the nation’s tourism chief said Tuesday.
Lee Charm, president of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), announced it will organize an “Inspiring Night in Korea,” jointly with the Visit Korea Committee, on June 23 at Changdeok Palace, UNESCO’s world heritage site in central Seoul, inviting thousands of tourism officials, Seoul citizens and foreign visitors.
“The upcoming festival will feature a range of events to allow local citizens and foreign tourists to experience what it was like living in the palace during the Chosun Dynasty. Then, there will be a series of traditional performances to excite the crowd. It will be a celebration for everyone and be an occasion to renew Korea’s effort to emerge as one of the world’s major tourism powers,” Lee said.
Last year, Korea launched the “2010-2012 Visit Korea Year” campaign in a bid to attract 10 million foreign tourists annually by 2012, increase the nation’s tourism revenue to $10 billion and make it on to the list of top-20 countries in surveys of tourism competitiveness.
In 2009, the number of foreign visitors exceeded the seven-million mark for the first time in history at 7.81 million, on the back of a weak Korean won against the dollar and other currencies.
“We should foster tourism as one of Korea’s new growth engines. In fact, Spain, France and other popular destinations are places where the standard of living for residents is high. To improve the quality of life here for Koreans, we should boost the tourism infrastructure and create attractive cultural contents,” the KTO head said.
He then said the tourism industry is as important as the information technology and auto sectors, stressing that it is the key to Korea’s effort to join the league of advanced economies
“To attract foreign tourists, we have introduced a range of policy measures. We have tried to lower the costs of accommodation and build more foreigner-friendly leisure facilities. But above all, we have been trying to raise the awareness of the Korean public about how important the tourism industry is to them. From that note, we have organized a volunteer group, called ‘Korea Tourism Supporters,’ who help municipal governments develop their areas as a tourist attraction,” Lee said.