South Korea Market Profile

South Korea is the second largest outbound market in Asia, supported by 56 nonstop flights from four airlines into two California gateways weekly. Mobile is king in the South Korean outbound travel market. Despite recent political challenges, South Korea travel continues to grow, fueled by the growth of free independent travel and the shift from cookie-cutter tour products to authentic, inspirational and experiential travel.


  • The Korean travel market is highly seasonal, which is evident with long-haul destinations
  • Mobile spending overall is rising dramatically, with travel impacting part of the increase
  • Rise in FIT travel impacts experiences offered

  • Television influence is still strong on destination selection



Travel Profile

In Person Trips, 2016
$1.110 Billion
Visitor Spending, 2016

Market Conditions

GDP Annual Growth Rate

Korea continues to grow, with annual GDP growth estimated to reach 2.7 percent in 2016 and even further growth in 2017. In the long term, the GDP annual growth rate is projected to trend at 3 percent in 2020. Due to positive signs of market conditions, the number of Korean outbound travelers is expected to grow at a rate of 20 percent, surpassing 22 million in 2016 and reaching 25 million in 2017, according to Korea Tourism Organization.


Exchange Rate

The won remains stable with the average exchange rate of the U.S. dollar; one U.S. dollar is marked at KRW1,162 in 2016. For 2017, the Korea Institute of Finance forecasts that the U.S. dollar to Korean won exchange rate will be an average annual rate of KRW1,165 as the U.S. dollar is surging in value with the rising interest rates.



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Travel & Planning Methodologies


  • 35 weekly nonstop flights to Los Angeles and 21 weekly flights to San Francisco
  • Korean Air will schedule an additional direct flight to Los Angeles five times a week from June 2017, and to San Francisco, five times a week from April
  • By September 2017, 68 weekly nonstop flights to California are expected
  • Asiana Air has changed its aircraft to A380 for its Los Angeles flight, starting October 2016, bringing 150 additional seats daily to California
  • Singapore Air has launched nonstop flights between Seoul and Los Angeles; SIN-ICN-SFO flight has been re-routed to operate as a SIN-ICN-LAX service as of October 2016
  • Airlines operate additional flights in the July to August summer high season (20,992 weekly nonstop seats)


  • California is a popular destination year-round for visiting friends/relatives and business-leisure market (booking time frame is evenly spread)
  • April-June for vacations between July to August and September-November for vacations between December to February are the main booking periods
  • Over 80 percent of bookings for California tour packages, air tickets and hotels are made online
  • Top 20 travel agents handle over 80 percent of outbound package tours

Market Barriers & Risk Factors


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