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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Strong dollar fuels surge in family and tourist visits to Korea this summer

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A strong dollar, with the exchange rate to the Korean won approaching nearly 1,400 won to the U.S. dollar, is fueling more travelers’ visits to Korea this summer.

According to Korean-American travel agencies in the Los Angeles area, the season for Korean-Americans to visit their homeland begins in earnest at the end of May, when the summer break season begins, and this year’s bookings have increased by about 30 percent compared to last year.

The rising dollar is expected to boost family visits to South Korea during the summer break season. Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of the main tourist attractions in Seoul


The exchange rate of the won against the dollar, which has been on the rise since last month’s 1,310 won, hit 1,375.4 won as of December 12, the highest level in 17 months since 2022.

In addition to the strong dollar, travel agencies have organized itineraries centered on tourism hubs recommended by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization for the ‘Visit Korea Year’, as well as tours linked to Japan and Southeast Asia.

“Every week from the end of May to mid-July, we offer a tour to visit our home country with an English-speaking guide and a 32-seater limousine bus,” said Youngim Shin, vice president of Samho Tour. “Our programs to the West and South Sea, Jeju, and nationwide tour are the most popular, and our special packages, Japan + Korea and Southeast Asia + Korea, are also in demand,” said Shin.

Steve Cho, general manager of Aju Tour, said, “Bookings have increased by more than 15% compared to last year, not only due to health checks when visiting the home country but also due to the recent multi-country citizenship application. Our new 27-seater VVIP limousine bus takes guests to explore gourmet restaurants around the country, and our Korea + Japan tour, which was launched to celebrate our 40th anniversary, is gaining popularity. Medical tourism, where travelers can get medical check-ups at top hospitals in Korea, is also popular.”

Grace Lee, manager of Four Seasons Tours and Travel, said, “We have seen a significant increase in small group travel, such as families traveling in May and early June, with bookings up about 30% compared to last year. Our most popular tours include a 10-day trip around the country and a three-day, four-night trip to the South and West Seas. The 7-day inland tour has also seen an increase in bookings due to upgrades to hotels and meals,” said Lee.

PRT Tour has also launched four themed tours centered on Jeonju, Gangneung, and Busan, which are popular tourism hubs in Korea, as well as cruises to Jeju and Ulleungdo.

Mirae Travel is also introducing a three-generation tour package for second and third-generation Korean Americans with English-speaking guides and a VIP medical checkup tour.

Many are also traveling independently without a travel agency.

A resident surnamed Kim of La Crescenta, said, “The whole family is going to Korea for the first time in six years after my children’s college applications and the pandemic. We are also going to Japan, thanks to the strong dollar making traveling cheaper.”

“Since last year, my children, who are high school and college students passionate about K-pop and K-food, have been asking me to go to Korea, but this year, I finally booked tickets to Korea in early June because I could save money from the rising dollar and currency exchange rate,” said an anonymous Korean-American office worker at Mission Viejo.

BY NAKI PARK, HOONSIK WOO [park.naki@koreadaily.com]