SEOUL & YANGON—With “Korean Wave” popular culture attracting an ever-greater following in Myanmar, from drama to K-pop, the number of Myanmar tourists visiting South Korea continues to grow.
According to data from the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), the number of Myanmar tourists visiting Korea has risen every year since 2015. A total of 71, 094 Myanmar tourists visited from January to November last year, an increase of 21 percent compared to all of 2015.
Oh Choongsub, a director at KTO, said that given the increasing number of visitors, Myanmar is likely to be the next main target for Korea’s tourism industry, which is already concentrating on attracting more visitors from Asian countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, targeting them with heavy promotions and advertisements.
“Myanmar will be our next target,” he said.
He added that while the Korean Wave, or “Hallyu”, pop culture phenomenon had resulted in the spread of Korean culture, fashion, cafes and general interest in the country, the trend of peace on the Korean peninsula was also helping to attract foreign tourists.
Ko Naung Naung Han, the secretary general of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, who is also the managing director of Radiant Tours, an inbound/outbound travel company, said the popularity of Korean dramas and movies has made the country a dream destination among Myanmar travelers.
With direct flights now operating between the two countries and visas more easily obtained than before, more and more tour agencies are arranging trips to Korea, he said.
“Before, visa applications were often rejected due to concerns about people overstaying their visas or working on a tourist visa. Recently, the embassy has approved more visas for travelers and travel agencies, as they now have direct flights,” he said.
Outbound tourism is booming in Myanmar, with more than 500 tour agencies now offering guided trips to the country. Myanmar people are mostly traveling to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Bodh Gaya in India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Jordan, South Korea, the U.S. and Europe, state media reported recently.
“There [is] a lot of interest from Myanmar to Korea and also from Korea to Myanmar,” said Oh, the KTO director.
According to KTO data, 42,535 Korean Tourists visited Myanmar from January to August 2018.
Oh urged tourism authorities to emulate Myanmar’s neighbors and boost marketing efforts to attract more visitors to the country.
“These days, especially for the Korea market, Japan, China, Indonesia, especially Taiwan [are] very eager to attract Korea tourists,” he said. He added that some countries advertise themselves by making films starring Korean celebrities or sponsoring TV programs to shoot on locations there.
He suggested Myanmar needed to do more to promote its own image.
“Tourism is not one-sided. It is two-sided communication. That’s why to a certain extent, to Myanmar, to Korea, we should increase more tourists. So that we can have a chance to understand each other’s culture.”