This article is a reworked version of a report written by the author for KCTV Jeju last week. — Ed.
It’s been a year of new records in the tourism industry here on Jeju.
In a nutshell for 2013:
More than 10 million tourists flocked to Jeju
Direct international visitor numbers topped 1 million
3.1 million tourists visited Seongsan Sunrise Peak
2.8 million people arrived via ferries
The magic number 10 million was reached on Nov. 28 with a passenger and his family from Seoul arriving at Jeju International Airport. The governor, Woo Keun-min, was on-hand to present the lucky visitor with flowers and a commemorative Jeju stone grandfather statue.
Financially it’s been boon for the local economy, too. According to a Korea Herald report, travelers to Jeju are estimated to have contributed 6.4 trillion won (or $6 billion) to the local economy. That is eight times more than from mandarin orange production, and double the tourism income from just three years ago.
Moreover, more of these travellers than ever before are arriving on the island directly from overseas: some 1 million people this year. This figure is up 70 percent compared to last year. The Jeju Immigration Office said that 82 percent of overseas arrivals by air and sea came from China.
Related to this staggering number is that over 3 million people visited Seongsan Sunrise Peak. This is the very first tourist attraction on Jeju to be visited by that many people in one year.
And by the end of December, some 2.8 million ferry passengers to Jeju are expected, a 6 percent increase over the same period last year. The Jeju Maritime Management Division attributed these increases to a new Usuyeong route, as well as more sailings between Jeju and Incheon, and the resumption of the Busan-Jeju ferry service, which stopped in 2011 due to a fire.
Tourist numbers began to be compiled by the government in 1962. According to the Jeju Provincial Tourism Association, the following increases over the last 50 years are as follows:
100,000 in 1966
500,000 in 1977
1 million in 1983
2 million in 1988
3 million in 1991
5 million in 2005
7.58 million in 2010
8.74 million in 2011
9.69 million in 2012
10+ million in 2013
According to an interview with the Jeju Tourism Organization’s Marketing Director Moon Kyung-ho, by 2020 the total number of visitors to Jeju is estimated to surpass 15 million a year. And the number of foreign tourists will be 5 million, with perhaps as many as 3.5 million from China.
In fact, the island’s proximity to China, with more direct flights and cruise line routes between Jeju and China, is a major source of foreign tourism. According to Yonhap news, the number of foreign tourists to Jeju, mostly on Chinese package tours, rose this year by 40.6 percent to 2.2 million. The number of Korean tourists increased more modestly by 5.4 percent to 7.77 million.
In the last three years, Jeju has outpaced Bali, Hawaii and Okinawa in average growth in its number of visitors. However, when looking at income from tourism on Jeju, it’s only half that of Hawaii or Okinawa, even though Jeju’s visitor numbers are much higher. The average stay for visitors to Jeju is also problematic — just three or four days — whereas Hawaii’s average is nearly 9 days. Problems for locals also include an increased number of car accidents involving tourists in rental cars, as well as heavy traffic congestion in Jeju City.