|Tourists are heading to small and placid destinations such as Nha Trang, a costal resort city in southern Vietnam. / gettyimagesbank|
By Kang Seung-woo
Today's tourists are evolving constantly and Korean travelers are no exception as the country's travel trends have gone through noteworthy changes over a decade.
According to the latest report by Korea's largest travel agency Hana Tour, Thursday, Japan has emerged as local travelers' favorite destination over Southeast Asia, while they are also fonder of quiet and rural areas rather than big cities
Plus, what to do and with whom they do it are now more important than where to go.
Japan becoming darling of Korean travelers
Ten years ago, Southeast Asian countries were the most popular vacation spots for Koreans, accounting for 40 percent of all travel destinations, but since then, they and China have alternately taken the lion's share.
However, Japan became the top vacation spot 2016 and the neighboring country tightened its grip on the leader board the following year with its portion reaching 42 percent ― a sharp increase from 21.8 percent in 2008. Last year, it logged 38.8 percent.
In January, about 779,400 Koreans visited Japan, showing that this year's figure may surpass 2018's record high of 7.54 million.
"Along with the Japanese government's aggressive tourism policy to welcome foreign visitors, more independent travelers and budget airlines flying to Japan have also contributed to more Koreans traveling there," a Hana Tour official said.
While Japan is riding high, China, once the top tourist destination along with Southeast Asia, has been losing luster with Koreans.
Since China dropped to second in 2011, the country has failed to bounce back, sitting third last year after attracting 13 percent of the total outbound travelers.
Quiet, peaceful destinations emerging
As Korean travelers' preferred locations have been changing, so have their travel styles, with more people running away from hectic and famous places and instead heading to small and placid destinations.
For example, crowded resort areas such as Thailand's Phuket, Bangkok and Pattaya were favorite tourist spots previously, but since 2017, Vietnam's small and newly developed cities, including Da Nang, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc, have been high on the list of tourist destinations.
As for China, Zhangjiajie and Guilin were traditional attractions, but currently, Hong Kong has stepped in for them since 2015.
|Beppu, a city and spa resort on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, is one of the favorite destinations for Korea travelers. / gettyimagesbank|
In addition, destinations that are friendly to free independent and leisure travelers are gaining recognition from tourists, particularly Osaka and Hawaii among others.?
Those who fly to Europe these days also prefer traveling to one or two countries to get a deeper grasp of destinations compared to tours that took in multiple nations.
Type of travel mates decides type of trip
In the past, Korean tourists' first consideration before they hit the road was to decide where they would go because the purpose of their overseas trips was mainly to go sightseeing in other countries.
However, with increasing opportunities to go abroad, they are now more focused on what they can do there and it is affected by travel companions, the travel agency noted.
"Parents with children under 12 tend to travel to resort areas, such as Guam, Saipan and Cebu, but those who have children over 12 are interested in doing something rather than just chilling out," the Hana official said.
"The type of travel companions also decides the type of travel."
Over the past 10 years, family travel accounted for 40 percent of the trips, according to the agency.
Until 2014, parents had a tendency to travel with their small children, but since then family trips that are comprised of parents and older children have been more popular. In terms of demand growth, the latter type more than doubled over the past 10 years, while the former increased 50 percent.