Cruise ship tourism numbers are sharply down as the diplomatic row with China over THAAD is drastically effecting the number of Chinese tourists visiting South Korea.
Since March, China has been selectively banning package tours to South Korea in response to the US missile system.
The importance of China to the cruise ship tourism industry is huge with the Chinese accounting for 91 percent of about 1.95 million foreign tourists who came to South Korea on cruise ships last year.
The numbers were on the rise before the ban with cruise ship tourists jumping up 74 percent in January and 71 percent in February from a year earlier.
That all came to an end when numbers started falling in March, dropping 45 percent from a year earlier. It then dropped 80 percent April, 91 percent to 19,000 in May and a whopping 95 percent in June.
Ministry estimates say that the cruise tourists contributed US$4.69 billion to the local economy last year and the need to diversify has slapped them across the face.
“We are going to diversify South Korea’s cruise tour market, which has been heavily dependent on China,” a ministry official said. “We also hope our relations with China will improve soon to allow Chinese tourists to enjoy cruise tours in South Korea.”
The Chinese citizenry apparently backs the policy of their government. Back in March 3,400 Chinese passengers on board refused to disembark on Jeju island, shocking South Korean customs officials, tour guides and the drivers of 80 tour buses waiting to transport them around the island.
The action was praised widely across Chinese social media.