Tourism in South Korea

Tourism in South Korea

South Korea recorded a total of three million tourists in 2020, ranking 58th in the world in absolute terms.

Without including the size of a country, such a ranking list may not be very meaningful. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of South Korea, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.049 tourists per resident, South Korea ranked 144th in the world. In East Asia, it ranked 3rd.

In 2020, South Korea generated around 11.78 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 0.65 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 36 percent of all international tourism receipts in East Asia.

A global comparison can be found here › International tourism

Back to overview: South Korea

The most popular cities in South Korea for international travelers are Seoul and Jeju. In 2019, Seoul ranked 23rd among the world's most popular cities with 9.11 million tourists. Jeju was in 100th place with 2.28 million tourists.

Tourism in South KoreaOn average, each of the tourists arriving in 2020 spent about 3,953 US dollars. Conversely, the inhabitants of South Korea spend only around 3,303 dollars a year when they themselves spend vacations abroad.

Development of the tourism sector in South Korea from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in South Korea each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Data in the chart are given in millions of tourists. The red line represents the average of all 6 countries in East Asia.

Tourists per year in South Korea

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 6.67 billion USD, or about 1.2 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 3.75 million tourists at that time and roughly 1,777 USD per person. Within 25 years, the country's dependence on tourism has increased noticeably. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $25.46 billion billion, 1.5 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $1,454 on their vacation in South Korea.

In 2020, tourist receipts plummeted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $25.46 billion billion (2019), only $11.78 billion billion remained. This is a 54 percent decrease in South Korea.

Tourism receipts in South Korea per year

All data for South Korea in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
20202.52 m11.78 bn $0.72 %4,675 $
201917.50 m25.46 bn $1.5 %1,454 $
201815.35 m23.10 bn $1.3 %1,505 $
201713.34 m17.17 bn $1.1 %1,288 $
201617.24 m20.92 bn $1.4 %1,214 $
201513.23 m18.71 bn $1.3 %1,414 $
201414.20 m22.39 bn $1.5 %1,577 $
201312.18 m19.46 bn $1.4 %1,598 $
201211.14 m18.73 bn $1.5 %1,681 $
20119.80 m17.33 bn $1.4 %1,769 $
20108.80 m14.32 bn $1.3 %1,627 $
20097.82 m13.26 bn $1.4 %1,696 $
20086.89 m13.44 bn $1.3 %1,950 $
20076.45 m9.25 bn $0.79 %1,435 $
20066.16 m8.44 bn $0.80 %1,371 $
20056.02 m8.28 bn $0.89 %1,375 $
20045.82 m8.22 bn $1.0 %1,413 $
20034.75 m7.00 bn $1.00 %1,473 $
20025.35 m7.62 bn $1.2 %1,425 $
20015.15 m7.92 bn $1.4 %1,538 $
20005.32 m8.53 bn $1.5 %1,602 $
19994.66 m8.34 bn $1.7 %1,789 $
19984.25 m8.26 bn $2.2 %1,944 $
19973.91 m6.32 bn $1.1 %1,616 $
19963.68 m6.35 bn $1.0 %1,724 $
19953.75 m6.67 bn $1.2 %1,777 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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