Seoul to take action against illegal ‘dumping tours’

Foreign tourists walk down a street in central Seoul's Myeong-dong, Feb. 24. Yonhap

Seoul will step up its crackdown on unfair tourism practices — better known as “dumping tours” — to prevent them from hurting the city’s reputation as a popular tourist destination amid a surge in inbound tourists, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced, Sunday. “Dumping tours” refers to package tours offered by travel agencies at unusually low prices, in which they usher tourists to stores and force them to buy overpriced products such as cosmetics, nutritional supplements and duty free items. In an effort to tackle this issue, the city government undertook a comprehensive survey on Seoul travel packages offered in the Chinese market, considering the significant influx of tourists from China. The city is focusing on travel packages for visitors from China, who take the largest portion of incoming tourists, but plans to survey other countries in the future as well. Among 3,097 Seoul tourism packages sold on four major online platforms in China, a survey of the 100 lowest-priced revealed that 85 were suspected of promoting dumping tours. The products were identified as suspicious for including shopping in their itineraries and for having sales prices lower than the sum of airfare and stay expenses.

Of these 85 suspicious packages, 45 were confirmed to involve shopping trips six to eight times during the five-day and four-night tour schedule. Typically, these tours employ unqualified guides or compensate guides with shopping-related incentives instead of wages, thereby incorporating numerous shopping trips into the itinerary. The most frequently visited shopping sites through these travel products are duty free shops and souvenir shops. Notably, tourist complaints have risen, particularly regarding the exorbitant prices of functional foods sold at souvenir shops. To address this issue, the city government plans to exert comprehensive efforts in managing the quality of tourism in Seoul by implementing strict preemptive measures and responses against various unfair practices, including dumping tours. As a preliminary measure, the city will share the survey results with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to prevent the domestic proliferation of dumping tours.

The city government has requested the ministry’s cooperation in preventing travel agencies, especially those targeting tour groups, from distributing such tours. Additionally, they aim to inform the Chinese Embassy of the situation, urging sanctions against unfair tourism industry practices under Chinese laws. As a follow-up measure, the city will expand reporting centers for illegal tourism activities and crack down on various illicit and unfair practices through the ombudsman system. The ombudsman system will play an active role in mediation, arbitration, pre-monitoring and investigations. The city government will also crack down on unqualified tour guides at popular foreign tourist destinations, including Myeong-dong and Yeouido. It also aims to prohibit using social media to sell tour programs that do not involve a domestic travel agency or a tourism interpreter .”We will collaborate with the tourism industry and related organizations to eradicate illegal practices and establish fair tourism,” said Kim Young-hwan, the director general of the Tourism and Sports Bureau at the city government .According to the Korea Tourism Organization, more than 11 million tourists came to Korea in 2023, a remarkable 245 percent 토토 increase from the previous year.

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