Tourists at Seoul's landmark Gyeongbokgung Palace, South Korea. (Photo: Global Times)
Chinese tourists are returning to South Korea as bilateral relations gradually warm up, experts said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday in Beijing and called for a deepening and developing strategic cooperative partnership, accommodating each other's core interests and major concerns and lifting bilateral ties to a higher level, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Tourism experts took this meeting as a positive signal for the sector. China-South Korea relations turned icy in the shadow of the US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.
"The meeting between the two leaders sent a positive signal to boost tourism. There is still much room to grow," Xu Xiaolei, chief brand officer of China CYTS Tours Holding, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Visa applications from Chinese to South Korea and the number of Chinese tourists to the country have both increased from the low point in 2017, when China suspended group tours to South Korea in response to the THAAD deployment.
"Tourism to South Korea is recovering from its worst period in 2017 and 2018, mainly driven by independent tourists. The number of independent travelers to South Korea has surged 20 percent, based on market research," said Xu.
As of November, the number of Chinese visitors to South Korea soared to 5.51 million, up 26.1 percent, said Yonhap News Agency.
It is notable that the number of Chinese tourists to Japan has also risen rapidly.