MERS crisis adversely affects South Korea’s tourism sector

Published on : Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MERS-GettyWith visitor numbers plunging more than 40 percent in June following the outbreak of the deadly MERS virus, South Korea’s tourism industry is struggling to keep itself afloat.



The first diagnosis of a case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was made on May 20 which kicked off an outbreak that claimed 36 lives. With 186 confirmed cases, it was the largest MERS outbreak outside Saudi Arabia.



This triggered widespread panic at home and mass tour cancellations abroad.



Officials are warning that the cost in lost revenue could be close to $10 billion.



Prior to this, tourism sector in South Korea was shining with the number of overseas arrivals in the first five months up 10.7 percent from the same period in 2014.



According to data released by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the number of tourists in June plunged 41 percent from a year earlier to 750,925.



The number of mainland Chinese – the biggest spending visitors – was down 45 percent, while arrivals from Taiwan and Hong Kong were down 76 percent and 75 percent respectively.



The serious threat to tourism caused by MERS has forced KTO to announce a slew of measures to re-boot tourism, including waiving visa fees for group travellers from China and Southeast Asia.

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