Market Intelligence
Travel and Tourism South Korea Trade Development Trade Promotion

South Korea Tourism Market

Korea’s tourism market opportunities remain strong. Growth trends are moving toward more diverse travel experiences and optimizing social media landscape. 

In 2019, 28.7 million Koreans, more than half of South Korea’s population, traveled abroad with 2.3 million Koreans traveling to the U.S. (the number of Koreans traveling to the U.S. is an increase of 4% over the previous year). International travel is rapidly growing for Koreans and offers significant opportunities for U.S. tourism exports.  The U.S. remains one of the top five destinations for Korean outbound travelers and is the top non-Asian and long haul destination.  On average, a Korean visitor to the U.S. spends approximately USD 4,900 per trip.This number translates to over USD 11 billion in tourism revenue in 2019 from Korean outbound travelers to the U.S. Korea is currently the sixth largest source of inbound travel to the U.S.

Korean consumer confidence has increased gradually across generations. Rising discretionary spending on activities, gradual increases in vacation time, heightened globalization, and greater awareness of international developments are motivating more Koreans to travel overseas. Korea’s GDP per capita (PPP) rose to USD 44,740 in 2019 (according to the World Bank), placing it securely in the ranks of middle-income countries. Positive perception of overseas travel and the abundance of information-sharing through mass media and social media are expected to continue to boost the growth of outbound tourism in the coming years. The recent boom of social commerce (social networks and websites that give product/service sellers access to a large pool of Korean travel consumers) is attributing to this growing trend, as they offer all types of travel products and unique experiences. Moreover, travel booking on mobile devices continues to expand for Korean consumers and is becoming a widely-used method of travel planning. Nine out of ten Korean travelers own a smartphone and roughly half of those users booked a flight/hotel via smartphone in the past twelve months.  The number of users of the Internet and smartphones has reached 90 percent in the Korean population.

The U.S. is the leading non-Asian destination for Koreans as it offers a variety of activities, culinary tours, and cultural experiences. U.S.-bound Koreans account for 8% of Korea’s outbound market and there is a room for further growth. Koreans use group tours, or travel individually to visit friends and relatives. Group tours can focus on price-competitive products that entice travel agencies in Korea to sell these products. Korean travelers are generally interested in the following activities: visiting museums, national parks, amusement parks, fashion outlets, golf courses, and unique local restaurants and wineries. To tap into this market, American travel and tourism entities should provide marketing collaterals on their destinations in the Korean language and cultivate long-term relationships with the travel trade industry in Korea. There are approximately 11,000 tour agents in Korea. Having effective training programs and promotional information on the U.S. destinations are key factors in accessing the Korean market.

For questions, contact the U.S. Commercial Service Korea at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul: Daniel Lew, Commercial Officer or Jessica Son, Senior Commercial Specialist