With growing economic ties, South Korea woos Indian tourists

New Delhi, Oct 24 (IANS) As India and South Korea expand their economic ties, Seoul wants more Indian tourists to visit the East Asian nation that combines the ancient, the modern and the oriental in a landscape that promises untold vistas.

"There is alot of interest about India in Korea and that's the reason why so many Korean companies are investing in India. We also want the Indians to know more about Korea and visit Korea," Kee Hun Kim, executive director, overseas marketing department, Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), told IANS.

According to Kee, KTO is planning to market his country's tourism around culture, food and entertainment in India, as it has successfully done in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

"We have placed culture as a topic in promoting Korean tourism. As Korean food, dramas, movies and pop song gain popularity in India, more and more Indians will be interested to visit Korea," Kee said.

Apart from promoting Korea through its culture, the KTO official said that incentive travel through many Korean companies in India will be taken up.

"Korea is very strong in MICE segment (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions). World's third largest number of international conferences and exhibitions were held in Korea last year. We will be promoting this segment through the participation of Korean companies," Kee said.

Explaining the participation of Korean companies in the MICE segment, the KTO official said the East Asian nations' firms engaged in India can host their customers, dealers, Indian promotions and conferences in Korea, through which the tourism sector will also gain.

Indian currently host many Korean companies, the most notable being Samsung, LG and Hyundai. Trade has also expanded many folds between the two nations. Last year, India exported goods and services worth of $4.14 billion and imported $13.50 billion from South Korea.

Meanwhile, various South Korean automobile parts and electronic components manufacturers have shown an eager desire to set up their production units in India, especially in Rajasthan's upcoming special economic zone.

While the South Koreans set up factories across the country, to satisfy their palates, entertainment and lifestyle habits various restaurants, shops selling spices and food items have also sprung up, giving the local populace a taste of the oriental nation, thus generating interest in the country.

Till September, 2013, nearly 92,000 Indians have travelled to Korea, marking an increase of 40 percent over the corresponding period of last year. KTO expects the numbers to reach 120,000 by the end of the calendar year which will represent a growth of nearly 10-15 percent on an average.

"We are expecting 200,000 Indians to visit Korea every year in the next five years through our promotions. The growth on an average will be around 10 percent per annum," Kee said.

Apart from New Delhi and Mumbai, where the KTO has been very active due to direct air connectivity between these cities and Seoul, officials say that a drastic increase from South India to Korea is expected soon.

"We will be focusing on South India. Especially Chennai, Hyderbad, Bagalore and the state of Kerala. We expect an exponential rise in tourists from these places, as there are many Korean companies which have bases there," Jae Sang Lee, director of KTO's New Delhi office, told IANS.

Although there is no direct air connectivity between South Indian cities and Seoul, Jae said that transit travel through a third country like Sri Lanka or the Maldives will be promoted to encourage tourism, until more air linkages are established.

"Air transport is a major concern. The tourism industries of both sides want more air connectivity. As not just tourists but transit passengers from US to India are also travelling on the sector, leaving very little seat availability," said Kee.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at rohit.v@ians.in)

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