|Busan is one of the favorite domestic travel destinations. / Courtesy of Expedia|
Expedia studies Koreans' domestic travel trends
By Kang Seung-woo
Despite a growing number of Koreans traveling to local attractions, there are still unfrequented places in Korea, a recent survey has found.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the average number of domestic trips per person increased from 5.5 a year in 2016 to 6.9 in 2018.
However, a poll by online travel agency Expedia revealed that domestic tourists visited a mere 6.1 percent of the nation's over 160 administrative areas, or 9.9 destinations.
By age, people in their 20s traveled to 10.9 spots, while those in their 30s and 40s visited 10.6 and 8.2 areas, respectively.
The U.S.-based company conducted the survey in August, interviewing 300 office workers aged between 20 and 49 who traveled in Korea in the past year.
Korea is home to 14 UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites that include Seokguram Grotto and Bulguk Temple, Changdeok Palace, Jongmyo Shrine and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Kingdom.
However, the poll disclosed that each person visited 4.6 sites, with even 9.7 percent of the respondents visiting none of them.
The Korea Tourism Organization has promoted its top 10 must-visit tourist spots every year, but the poll showed that many were unaware where the destinations were located.
For example, 33.7 percent were not aware of where Namhae was and 24.6 percent did not know the location of Gunsan. The former is the fifth-largest island in Korea, situated in South Gyeongsang Province, and the latter is a city in North Jeolla Province.
While people used to focus on nature appreciation and exploration of history and culture during trips in the past, now they are traveling with more varied themes.
The most-sought-after activity from domestic trips was tasting food at renowned restaurants, accounting for 64 percent, followed by camping with 35 percent and trekking with 33.3 percent, when multiple replies were allowed.
"Living like a local," a newly emerging travel trend in which people stay in an area for a long period and experience locals' lifestyle, was also a popular activity, as 32 percent of the respondents said they'd like to try it. It was followed by surfing and snorkeling with 21.3 percent.
Travel satisfaction levels were affected by various factors, and vacation facilities, accommodation, natural landscape and food were the top four satisfaction elements.
|Yangyang, Gangwon Province, is the mecca of Korean surfing. / Korea Times file|
While Koreans still love visiting traditionally favorite destinations such as Jeju Island and Busan, some towns in the eastern province of Gangwon are emerging as new darlings for travelers.
This includes Gangneung, Sokcho, Goseong and Yangyang and in particular; Yangyang is gaining recognition as a hot spot for surfing.
In the travel agency's poll about the best place for surfing, the county was the runaway leader with 41.7 percent, followed by Jeju at 24.7 percent and Busan at 16 percent.
All the age groups agreed that there are still off-the-beaten-path destinations in Korea as 65.3 percent wanted to visit more spots in the future.
However, 41 percent of interviewees in their 20s complained of a lack of information on such travel destinations, although they were willing to visit more destinations.