THE stunning southern island of Jeju Island in South Korea has long been a popular destination for Chinese tourists.
However, as a consequence of increasing geopolitical tensions between the regions, Chinese numbers on the island have plummeted.
Al Jazeera reported the drop in arrivals follows retaliatory economic measures taken by China, including banning tour packages to certain areas of South Korea.
Last month, it was reported while a cruise ship docked at Jeju Island, Chinese passengers remained on-board in a display of solidarity with their government’s vociferous opposition to South Korea.
Bai, from China’s western province of Gansu, told Reuters, “As Chinese, we surely should answer the government’s call at a special time, which meant not going to Jeju Island.”
On top of that, airlines such as China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd and Spring Airlines Co Ltd stopped online offers of flights between Jeju Island and China’s eastern city of Ningbo.
Despite lower numbers, some Jeju residents are saying it’s a “blessing in disguise”.
Jeju Province governor Won Hee-ryong told Al Jazeera, “We learned a lesson Chinese tourists could be hugely influenced by China’s politics and a high dependence [on them] is problematic.”
There have also been reports of bad behavior among Chinese tourists on Jeju.
The strained relationship could heavily affect tourism numbers for South Korea in the long term as over half of its tourist arrivals are attributed to the Chinese.
Tension between South Korea and China escalated in March following a controversial US-backed missile defense system in South Korea.
The US military-deployed Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) is designed to protect against threats from North Korea,
The Chinese are against the deployment of the system amid fears it might be able to see deep into Chinese territory, potentially shifting the balance of power in the region.