The number of Chinese visitors to South Korea has dropped by a whopping 40% in March, causing a significant loss for South Korea’s tourism industry.
According to Shanghaiist, China has followed through on their threats of cutting off the tourist flow to its Asian neighbor in protest of the installation of the U.S.-backed THAAD missile defense system.
The Korea Tourism Organization revealed that this year, only 360,000 tourists from China entered the country in March, compared to more than 600,000 visitors who arrived in the same month last year.
Duty-free shops in particular took a significantly hit, having previously relied heavily on wealthy Chinese tourists who accounted for 70% of their sales. The Chinese tourists would buy so many duty-free products that airports would sometimes look like garbage dumps after they leave their packaging behind.
China’s tourism ban is expected to cause South Korea to lose about $9.63 billion in revenue this year. To mitigate the further loss in revenue, the South Korean tourism industry has been aggressively seeking out tourists from other Asian neighbors.
In 2013, South Korea sought help from the United States to install the THAAD missile defense system as part of efforts to strengthen defenses against North Korean ballistic missiles. So far, six trailers carrying the THAAD radar, interceptor launchers, communications, and support equipment have been stationed at the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club in South Korea.