The volume of tourists from East Asia and the Pacific region visiting South Korea in the first 10 months of this year fell circa 84 percent year-on-year, to just under 1.9 million, versus 12.1 million in the same period in 2019.
The country’s casino industry is mostly reliant on customers that hold foreign nationality, as only one of the nation’s 17 casinos – Kangwon Land – is permitted to accept South Korean nationals as customers.
The tally of East Asia and the Pacific region visitors so far in 2020 accounted for circa 79 percent of all arrivals, showed data from the Korea Tourism Organization.
The aggregate number of foreigners who visited the country in the January to October period was just under 2.4 million, down circa 84 percent year-on-year from the nearly 14.6 million in same period last year. Nearly 1.3 million visits in the calendar-year to October 31, actually occurred in the month of January, before the Covid-19 pandemic largely halted international travel in the region.
Yonhap news agency reported – citing data from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism – that the decline put inbound tourism at its lowest level for 32 years.
If the trend of decline is maintained for the full year, the number of incoming tourists is expected to total circa 2.5 million for 2020, which would be the lowest since the 2.34 million recorded in 1988, reported Yonhap.
A number of foreigner-only casino operators has previously identified Chinese and Japanese passport holders respectively as important contributors to their gross gaming revenue (GGR) in pre-Covid-19 trading conditions.
Mainland China, which up to October 31 had supplied 27.9 percent of all tourism arrivals, accounted for 669,269 visitors in the first 10 months, down 86.6 percent on the just over 5.0 million in the same period in 2019.
Japan, which accounted in the calendar year to October 31 for 17.9 percent of inbound tourists, registered an 84.5 percent year-on-year decline in its contribution, to 428,537 arrivals, from just under 2.8 million in the same period in 2019.
In 2015 an outbreak in South Korea of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) saw a decline in inbound tourism and hurt the earnings of the foreigner-only casino firms.
Something similar has happened with a decline of inbound tourism this year.
Casino sales at Grand Korea Leisure Co Ltd (GKL), a firm linked to the Korea Tourism Organization, declined 57.9 percent in the first 11 months of this year, judged against the same period of 2019.
Paradise Co Ltd, another foreigner-only casino company, reported calendar year sales to November 30 had dipped by 59.0 percent.
The country’s entire casino industry has also since the start of the pandemic been disrupted by a number either of temporary suspensions – the most recently reported that at Paradise Casino Walkerhill in Seoul – or reductions in operating capacity as a countermeasure to the spread of Covid-19.
Currently, the greater Seoul region, encompassing South Korea’s capital, is operating under so-called “Level 2.5” social-distancing measures. “Level 3” would apply in a South Korean community where the daily tally of infection cases doubled from the previous day or if locally transmitted cases surged to 800 to 1,000, according to Yonhap.