Push for tourism ~ The Korea Herald
The South Korean government has come up with a well-designed policy package aimed at fostering the tourism industry as a growth engine and a job-creating machine.
The package has heightened expectations as it consists of practical measures that are likely to make Korea a more attractive tourist destination.
One such measure calls for refunding foreign tourists the 10 per cent value-added tax on their hotel bills. Domestic hotels have long called for the VAT reimbursement, which would have the effect of giving tourists a big discount on their hotel charges. But the tax office has persistently opposed the idea as it would reduce tax revenue.
VAT refunds will be implemented for one year from next January. The government said it would assess the outcome before deciding whether to extend it or not.
Other notable measures include issuing more multiple visas to tourists from China and Southeast Asia; creating a tourist police force to crack down on overcharging taxis and shops fleecing tourists; and hiring more tour guides capable of speaking foreign languages. Another major initiative proposes to allow domestic cruise lines to operate onboard casinos for foreign passengers.
The Korean government had refused to lift the ban until the nation&’s first cruise line, Harmony Cruise, went bankrupt due to financial trouble.
In recent years, casino fever has hit many countries in the region, including Japan. In Korea, the government of Gyeonggi Province has been pushing for two integrated casino resorts for foreigners near Incheon International Airport.
Yet the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recently rejected investment proposals from the provincial government&’s foreign partners, saying that they doubted their abilities to fund their plans.
Meanwhile, the tourism package also proposes to build medical tourism clusters in 10 areas of the country. It calls for combining Korea&’s high-quality, low-cost medical services with local tourism resources.