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The number of South Koreans visiting LA is increasing significantly

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The number of Koreans visiting Los Angeles has increased significantly as the pandemic eases.

According to the latest yearly statistics released by the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, 168,000 Koreans visited LA County last year, a 201.9% year-over-year surge, and the number is expected to increase by 52.4% to nearly 256,000 this year.

The L.A. tourism board expects this growth to continue and to recover and exceed pre-pandemic levels by 2024-2025.

Korean visitor arrivals to Los Angeles plummeted 77.8% from more than 330,000 in 2019 to 74,000 in 2020, the year the pandemic began, and then dropped to 55,000 in 2021.

In response to the growing number of Korean visitors, L.A. tourism executives traveled to South Korea on March 17 to promote the latest LA tourism information, “LA 2.0,” to key airline and travel industry officials.

During the event, L.A. Tourism Commissioner Adam Burke emphasized that LA is a top destination for Koreans as the center of the nation’s largest Korean-American community, and predicted that South Korea will rank 5th on the list of countries visiting LA this year, according to Korean media reports.

Burke reportedly credited the recovery in Korean visitor arrivals to the arrival of Air France last year, which joined existing carriers Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, with boosting weekly flights above pre-pandemic levels.

In fact, when comparing the weekly operation of national flag carriers on the LA route, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines operated 14 flights each in 2019, totaling 28 flights, but the launch of Air Premia at the end of October last year added 5 flights, totaling 33 flights, an increase of 17.9%. The number of seats also increased by 6%, from 11,272 seats in 2019 to 11,945 seats this year.

The Korean-American travel industry in Los Angeles is also experiencing a surge in demand for inbound tours for Koreans.

Mr. Lee Moon-sik, Director of Blue Tour, said, “Inbound tours have increased by almost 200-300%. With the launch of Airpremia, the demand for package tours has skyrocketed, reaching an average of 300 to 400 people per month. In particular, the World Korean Business Congress in Orange County in October is expected to attract 2,500 to 3,000 visitors, so we are making full preparations as the host travel agency.”

Shin Young-im, vice president of Samho Tour, said that while last year’s increase was only 30%, this year’s increase was more than 50% compared to 2021.

Individual visitors are also on the rise. Steve Cho, vice president of Mirae Tour, said, “Inbound individual visits, such as visiting relatives, have increased due to low seasonal airfares. We saw a 20% increase in home shopping tours, which are less expensive than package deals.”

Grace Lee, Team Leader at Chunchu Travel Agency, said, “Small-scale FIT tours, where inbound customers decide their own itinerary and accommodation, have surged by 80-90%. We are also seeing an increase in group visits from Korean local governments, and we are currently booking for events in October and November.”

“The number of inbound tours has increased by 60-70% since the beginning of the year,” said Choi Sun-hee, CEO of Sun Travel, an official agency of Modu Tour in Korea.

The travel industry is expected to see an increase in the number of Koreans traveling to the U.S. due to the post-pandemic demand for overseas travel and the expansion of cheap flights, and is reportedly working on product development.

 

BY PARK NAKHEE [naki@koreadaily.com]

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