Home TTJ Spotlight Interviews Korea’s Rising Appeal – An exclusive interview with KTO’s Lee Younggeun

Korea’s Rising Appeal – An exclusive interview with KTO’s Lee Younggeun

Lee Younggeun, Executive Director of KTO's International Marketing Department

The Korea Festival 2023, celebrates cultural ties and five decades of diplomacy between Korea and India, featuring stakeholders like Jeollanam-do Tourism Organization, Gwangju City, and others. Lee Younggeun, Executive Director of KTO’s International Marketing Department, discussed India’s increasing presence in Korea’s tourism.

– Vartik Sethi

The Korea Culture and Tourism Festival 2023 commenced with grandeur, commemorating the bilateral cultural ties and offering vibrant experiences. This festive occasion not only deepened cultural connections but also symbolised five decades of harmonious diplomacy between Korea and India.

Featuring stakeholders such as JeollaNamdo Tourism Organization, Gwangju City, nine destination management companies, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Bioface, and Amorepacific, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has curated an inclusive platform to delve into the diverse realms of Korean travel and lifestyle.

Speaking to Travel Trade Journal for an exclusive interaction, the discussion explored pivotal aspects of the partnership between KTO and India. With an impressive background in public policy and administration, Lee Younggeun, Executive Director, International Marketing Department, KTO, brings a unique blend of strategic thinking and practical expertise to his role `in promoting Korea’s rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and modern appeal.

Delving into tourism trends between India and Korea, Lee shared insights into the increasing number of Indian travellers visiting Korea over the past couple of years. While China and Japan occupy the top spots in Korea’s source markets, India’s growing presence is indicative of the country’s potential to climb the ranks.

In 2019, before the pandemic disrupted travel, Korea welcomed 140,000 Indian tourists. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the number recovered impressively, with 64,000 Indian tourists visiting Korea in the subsequent year. For 2023, KTO anticipates a total of 120,000 Indian tourists, marking a significant recovery.

Naju in Jeollanam-do Province
Naju in Jeollanam-do Province

To attract more Indian travellers, Lee highlighted the importance of tailoring tourism offerings to suit their preferences and interests. Korea’s diverse culture, condensed geography, and the ability to offer maximum experiences within a short time frame make it an attractive destination.

KTO’s taglines, “To Korea, where K-culture begins” and “Deeper into Korea,” align perfectly with the organization’s grand initiative of Visit Korea Year 2023-24. This initiative focuses on luxury and premium tourism experiences that cater to the evolving aspirations of Indian travellers. Drawing attention to the rising popularity of K-beauty, Lee shared, “We obviously have an abundance of luxurious resorts, hotels, and more. But aside from that, K-beauty is very well-known, especially considering we also offer a program that specialises in skincare routines. This can be another option in the realm of wellness.”

Lee emphasised that KTO aims to go beyond traditional tourism by fostering cultural and educational exchanges between India and Korea. This includes organising business seminars, workshops, and networking events to strengthen ties between the two countries’ tourism industries, ultimately paving the way for enhanced business collaborations. MICE is not just an important segment for Korea, but the destination is well equipped to cater to large corporate houses. “Korea boasts convention centers nationwide, and each region is well-equipped to host large-scale international conferences. In terms of incentive travel, numerous Indian groups are choosing Korea. Our new Delhi branch is set to launch active marketing efforts in this area due to the presence of major Indian and Korean companies in India,” said Lee.

The appointment of Anushka Sen as the Honorary Ambassador of Korea Tourism, Lee explained that the influencer and TV actor’s existing interest in Korea and her willingness to promote Korean tourism were key factors behind her selection. Her influence on social media, particularly among youngsters, is expected to create a positive synergy for Korea’s tourism promotion.

Moving beyond tourism, Lee shed light on the significant influx of foreign students to Korea, even during the pandemic, emphasising the unique phenomenon of attracting non-English-speaking international students. Korea has emerged as an appealing destination for short-term language courses, undergraduate, and postgraduate studies. Additionally, Korea boasts numerous convention centers, attracting international events and incentive tours, with India playing a substantial role in this segment.

Addressing a significant concern, the increase in airfare from India to Korea was attributed to the pandemic’s impact on flight availability. While the situation is on the path to normalisation, it may take time for airfare to return to pre-pandemic levels. “This increase is primarily attributed to COVID-19. While flights have started to return, the situation has not fully normalised to pre-pandemic levels and will take some time to do so,” added Lee.

As the interview concluded, it became evident that KTO, under the leadership of Lee Younggeun, is strategically poised to tap into India’s growing interest in Korea. It is set to become an increasingly attractive destination for Indian travellers, embodying the essence of “K-culture” and inviting them to go “Deeper into Korea.”