- Tour officials court tourists from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia
|▲ A Jeju-branded taxi used for promotions in Southeast Asia. Photo courtesy Jeju Tourism Organization|
Jeju is growing ever more confident in its attempts to attract tourists to the island. In addition to the recent surge into the Indonesian market - Indonesians visitors are up seven-fold since 2010 - Jeju Tourism Office (JTO) is now targeting Malaysians and Singaporeans in another overseas campaign.
James Shin of JTO marketing said, “we are targeting Malaysia and Singapore as a secondary tourist market as there has been a dramatic increase since 2010...last year we got over 65,000 Malaysian tourists visiting Jeju and around 63,000 Singaporeans.” According to research by JTO, Southeast Asians are attracted to Jeju because of the Korean Wave, the weather and the environment.
As part of the drive, Malaysian online tour operators AirAsiaGo.com and 12Fly.com.my were invited to Jeju on a “fam tour” - a subsidized trip organized by Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO) to promote the island. JTO gave both the red-carpet treatment to ensure Jeju made its impression through first-hand experience of Jeju tours, such as UNESCO Continued from page 1 World Natural Heritage tours, driving tours, cultural tours and independent traveler tours.
Southeast Asia is a key growth market as Jeju begins to look beyond traditional markets such as Japan and China. In May JTO welcomed tourists from Indonesia at Jeju International Airport as part of the New7Wonders promotion in Jakarta. There are plans to promote New7Wonders-branded products to the Southeast Asian market.
Flights are also increasing between Korea and the Southeast Asian nations with direct flights from Incheon to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur provided by Air Malaysia, Air Asia and Korean Air, among others. 36,447 tourists from Southeast Asia visited Jeju in the first quarter of 2013, an increase of 6.1 percent on 2012.
In a sign of how keen Jeju officials are to accommodate travelers from the region, recent JTO guidebooks have even included guides to halal food around Jeju. Azri Che Mukhtar of Muslim Tour in Korea, which caters to Malaysians, says more and more people are inter-ested in visiting the island.
“Young Malaysians are interested in Jeju because of the Korean Wave...we also love islands and beaches [and] the visa system makes Jeju more accessible than Japan or China,” he said.
Research shows that Indonesians are more likely to come on group tours than Malaysians, who travel more independently, preferring “free and easy” travel, says Mukhtar. Both nationalities are more likely to rate their stay on Jeju “very highly,” according to the JTO.
Despite the increase in tourist numbers, however, there is still room for improvement in services for Muslims.
“Most tourists want to try Korean food, but they can’t because there are no halal restaurants. If one opened it would have a big impact,” he said. “As Muslims we even have to use separate utensils in case they were used for pork,” he said.
Mukhtar uses only one guesthouse, for example, which caters for groups of Muslims. He believes that providing services such as prayer rooms at popular tourist sites would also prove very popular and promote a positive image of Jeju.
JTO’s marketing department is actively pursuing these suggestions. Shin says that local officials and tour providers are already looking at ways of making Jeju tours more Muslim-friendly.
“Unfortunately there are no prayer rooms yet available, but JTO has selected nine hotels and one tour destination - Ilchul Land - where the Quran and prayer mats are available alongside directions [to Mecca] so tourists can pray easily,” he said.
The big boost in numbers of Southeast Asians visiting Jeju started last year when airline AirAsiaX began direct flights to Incheon from Kuala Lumpur. AirAsiaX now plans to open a direct route with Busan and there are even whispers of a Jeju route in the not-so-distant future. Mukhtar of Muslim Tours believes this will be key.
“I receive emails asking for tours in Jeju but they have to fly to Incheon and then go to Gimpo – it is inconvenient...direct flights would definitely lead to an increase in tourist numbers,” he said.
In the event of directs flights to Kuala Lumpur, tourists numbers are bound to shoot up. The JTO is even considering putting a prayer room within Jeju International Airport, or another popular tourist site around the island. These measures are commonplace in other international tourist destinations and and are important if Jeju is to accommodate increasing numbers of Muslim tourists.
Darren Southcott firstname.lastname@example.org
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