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S. Korea’s inbound tourism market rebounds in H1

South Korea’s inbound travel market rebounded in the first half from a temporary slump a year ago in the wake of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, the state-run tourism agency said Tuesday.

About 8.1 million foreigners visited South Korea in the January-June period, surging 21 percent from a year earlier, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said.

The tourism sector was hit hard last year by MERS since the first case was discovered in May 2015, with the number of inbound travelers retreating 6.8 percent on-year in the first half of last year.

The KTO said big incentive tour groups from China and international events, including the Rotary International Convention that brought 21,000 visitors, helped increase inbound travelers during the period.

The number of Japanese travelers marked growth for the first time since October 2012, while those from Vietnam, Indonesia and India also sharply surged, it said.

The tourism agency said it will step up marketing to attract tourists from emerging markets and inner Chinese cities and develop customized programs for VIP customers.

“We will promote new growth drivers, such as the high-end tourism sector and medical tourism, to upgrade the tourism industry’s competitiveness,” Ahn Deok-soo, an overseas marketing official at the KTO, said. (Yonhap)