SE Asia replaces Japan as South Koreans’ favourite travel destination

Bangkok is the second most popular city after Da Nang for South Korean tourists. (Bangkok Post photo)

Southeast Asian countries posed as substitutes for Japanese locations since South Koreans refrained from making pleasure trips to their closest neighbour due to soured relationship.

Ticket Monster, South Korea’s e-commerce service provider, said on Thursday that its online sales of air tickets to Japan in August and September plunged 78% compared with the same period last year, Pulse reported. Ferry ticket sales to Tsushima, one of South Korea’s top travel destinations, dipped 92% over the same period, it added.

Travel demand for Southeast Asian countries has instead shot up. From August to September, Da Nang, Bangkok, Guam, Taipei and Cebu ranked the top five overseas destinations by South Koreans, based on plane ticket sales. Over the same period last year, Japanese cities such as Osaka, Tokyo and Fukuoka made the top five. Taipei and Guam, especially, made a big leap this year, climbing five notches and four notches, respectively, against a year ago.

Southeast Asian destinations accounted for 39% of airplane ticket reservation in the cited period, while that of Japan was just 3%. The trend is expected to continue until the end of this year, with Southeast Asian cities plus Hawaii making up the top five destinations booked for trips in December so far.

South Koreans started a voluntary boycott against Japan’s goods and services in July when Tokyo tightened controls on exports of three core chemicals used in producing semiconductor and display panels, Korea’s mainstay export items. Their anger over such a decision has not abated, stretching the boycott beyond the 100th day this week.

South Koreans’ stubborn boycott has taken a toll on the Japanese travel industry. It is reported that the local government of Tsushima, which had been one of Koreans’ top travel destinations, has asked the central government for emergency aid.