Bad Tour Products Taint Jejus Image
By Do Je-hae
The popular southern resort island of Jeju is planning to attract one million foreign tourists this year, but the health of Jeju's tourism industry has come into question over illegal activities practiced by travel agencies there.
A recent study shows that hundreds of travel agencies on Jeju often engage in illegal and unfair business practices.
A study by the Jeju Special Self-Governing Government found Tuesday that 208 travel agencies were involved in illegal practices, such as closing operations without adhering to regulations and not providing travelers with insurance. They have been given fines and administrative warnings.
There were 463 domestic and 83 overseas travel agencies registered with the local administration as of last year.
"In an attempt to reduce expenses, many of the island's smaller travel companies often fail to sign up for travelers insurance," according to a Jeju tourism official.
Tourists have often complained about the poor quality of services of some of the island's travel agencies, according to a separate field study conducted from Jan. 29 through Feb. 7.
Local tourism officials evaluated tours or packages combining airline tickets, accommodation and transportation.
Many of them frustrated tourists by arbitrarily changing their schedule or providing low-quality meals.
According to the study by the Jeju-based Research Institute for Regional Government and Economy, one travel agency was found to have switched the venues of a bus tour without informing travelers in advance and provided a smaller bus than originally announced.
Another agency forced tourists to walk through passages that were initially supposed to be travelled through by car.
Some even pressured participants to buy regional agricultural products, saying that the shopping was part of the travel deal.
Tourists also complained about the poor condition of rental cars and high parking fees at Jeju International Airport.
The provincial administration says it will come up with measures to fix such problems.
Some of the island's tourism agencies have been punished for fraud.
Last month, the head of an online travel agency based in Jeju was arrested.
According to local police, he had taken off with 20 million won that had been paid in advance to his company by his customers.
As of March 1, the combined number of foreign and domestic visitors this year to Jeju had already exceeded the 1 million mark.
Local authorities are hoping that the island will host 10 million total tourists annually in the near future.
This year, they are targeting 6.7 million tourists and tourism revenue of three trillion won.
The Jeju provincial administration has selected seven objectives to achieve its goals, including a more stable operation of domestic duty free shops and introducing tourist-only casinos.
In particular, the local officials are focusing on the introduction of casinos, which they see as a necessary tool to bring in additional visitors.
The island will host a number of large-scale international events this year, including the Int'l Bike Challenge on March 27 and 28.