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According to statistics from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the tourism industry saw the largest boom in 2012, as the number of international tourists reached 1.04 billion, increasing by 4% compared to the previous year. The global tourism market recovered from the global financial crisis more rapidly than most other industries, maintaining the upward momentum in 2012 as well. In particular, the Asia-Pacific region recorded the highest growth rate at 7%, with China performing strong.
1. Trends and Environment for Investment in Tourism and Leisure
World Travel & Tourism (2013) revealed that as of 2012, the global tourism industry accounted for 9.6% of the global GDP (USD 6.6 trillion) and 5% of global investment (USD 760 billion), and created 260 million direct and indirect jobs. The industry is expected to record USD 10.5 trillion of GDP and USD 1.3 trillion of investment, and create 340 million jobs by 2023. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Korea’s tourism competitiveness ranked 25th among 140 countries and 6th among 25 nations in the Pacific region. Korea is particularly competitive in cultural resources (5th) and infrastructure for information and communications technology (8th), while it lags behind in terms of national awareness (120th) and price competitiveness (96th).
Source: World Travel & Tourism Council (2013); Country rankings: Relative contribution, 2012
2. Korea’s Environment and Policies to Attract Investment in Tourism, Leisure and Local Development
Current statistics related to investment in tourism and local development are divided into several categories including food, accommodations, property, lease, recreation and entertainment. Over the past 5 years, investment in the tourism industry accounted for 20% of that of the service sector. In 2011, investment decreased to the 2009 level, but started to recover slowly in 2012.
In September of 2012, a preliminary examination system was introduced for foreign investors who want to invest in resort complexes in order to facilitate investment in free economic zones. The system allows such investors to apply for preliminary examination through informal documents before official application for approvals, reducing time and costs. In order to facilitate marine tourism and leisure sports, the government is planning to designate 6 marinas (2 marinas along each of the western, southern and eastern coasts) to found global marina facilities. This will be a new growth engine industry that will lead regional development and boost domestic demand by creating jobs and attracting tourists from both at home and abroad. In addition, the Korean government adopted a program that allows travelers transferring in Korea to stay in the country for a maximum of 72 hours without a visa, in order to attract more foreign travelers. This program is expected to contribute to attracting more Chinese travelers and promoting investment in the tourism and leisure industry.
3. Foreign Investment in Tourism, Leisure, Regional Development
Foreign-invested companies in Korea’s tourism and leisure industry are largely divided into hotel and marina businesses that are unit enterprises and resort complex companies that are aimed at comprehensive entertainment business. Currently, Banyan Tree has its branch in Seoul, and the Oriental Mandarin Hotel is also planning to enter the Korean market. Recently, with Korean maritime tourism attracting attention from around the world, resort development companies including Florida Marina Development (USA) and Superior Jetties (Australia) are showing interest in Korea. Singapore’s SUTL is conducting negotiations regarding a project in Busan. In addition, investments targeting the increasing number of Chinese tourists are on the rise, but they are mostly concentrated on Jeju Island. Greenland Holding Group (China) has decided to invest KRW 1 trillion in Jeju Healthcare Town and the Landing Group (Hong Kong) is participating in a project to build the Myths and History Theme Park.