Korea to create sports-themed tours for young travelers

Bomi Yoon

This photo shows the final match of the 2023 Leauge of Legends (LoL) World Championship at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Nov. 19, 2023.  Newsis

This photo shows the final match of the 2023 Leauge of Legends (LoL) World Championship at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Nov. 19, 2023. Newsis

Esports, cycling, taekwondo-themed programs to be offered to unlock inbound tourism potential

By Lee Hae-rin

Korea aims to launch esports and sports-themed tour programs targeting young travelers this year, travel authorities said, Tuesday.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) held the organization’s annual business briefing session with some 250 government and industry officials in Seoul, Tuesday.

“Esports is emerging as one of the key pillars to the new wave of Korean culture and Korea has the best infrastructure (as an esports travel destination), such as professional players with global fandoms and elite academies,” Cho Hee-jin, the KTO’s executive director of the international marketing department, said.

“The KTO plans to make full use of that to promote the country as an esports pilgrimage destination (for avid game fans) and work with local LoL professional players, influencers, media and tour agencies to make guided tours and present them in global roadshows,” she said, referring to the KTO’s scheme to unfold large-scale marketing events in 25 cities around the world this year.

Seven esports games, including League of Legends (LoL), were selected for the first time as an official event of the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year and Korea proved its prowess as an esports powerhouse by clinching four medals and ranking second after China.

According to the leading game data platform Newzoo’s 2022 report, the global esports market is worth $1.38 billion in revenue and has around 532 million audience. The market will generate around $1.87 billion in revenue globally with global audience numbers expected to surpass 640 million by 2025, the report said.

Last year’s final match of the LoL World Championship showed the industry’s tourism effect. Foreign nationals filled around 15 percent of the 18,000 seats at the event at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, which were sold out instantly, and over 15,000 global and domestic fans gathered for the live street event at Gwanghwamun Square.

In response, the KTO aims to launch esports-themed programs during the fourth quarter of this year.

The package will feature mega fan meetups with Korean professional gamers and some 1,000 global fans, as well as LoL coaching sessions, visits to the national LoL club and experiences related to the local PC room culture here.

Additionally, the organization will launch sports-themed programs, such as national park trekking and bike riding courses countrywide, as well as winter sports tours targeting visitors from Southeast Asian countries and Australia, which experience little to no snowfall.

According to a global cycling tour operator Explore Worldwide, Korea ranked seventh among countries that saw the biggest jump in interest in bike tours last year, based on Google search volume.

Also, as the home country to Taekwondo, the KTO will work with the Taekwondo Park in the alpine town of Muju, North Jeolla Province, to offer sport-themed experiences.

These programs aim to attract young, free independent travelers who map out their own itineraries based on personal interests, according to the organization.

Meanwhile, Culture Minister Yu In-chon met with 32 heads of KTO’s overseas offices based in 22 countries to discuss regional inbound tourism strategies.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yu In-chon, fourth from left, discusses inbound tourism strategies with the Korea Tourism Organization's (KTO) heads of overseas offices in Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yu In-chon, fourth from left, discusses inbound tourism strategies with the Korea Tourism Organization’s (KTO) heads of overseas offices in Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

In celebration of the 2023-2024 Visit Korea Year, the ministry aims to attain 20 million tourists this year, surpassing the pre-pandemic record of 17.5 million in 2019.

Korea saw 11.03 million inbound tourists in 2023, which is a 245-percent jump from the previous year and a 63-percent recovery from 2019, according to the KTO, Tuesday.

By country, Japan topped the list with 2.32 million visitors, followed by China with 2.02 million, the United States with 1.09 million, Taiwan and Vietnam with some 960,000 and 420,000 visitors, respectively.

Korea received more than 1 million inbound tourists per month between July and December last year.

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