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article imageSurge in Korean tourists as Croatia looks East to new markets

By Paul Bradbury     Nov 11, 2014 in World
Seoul - A romantic South Korean reality show is but one reason behind the surge in tourism among Asians to Croatia, a trend the tourism minister is looking to build on.
Croatia's Minister of Tourism Darko Lorencin has visited South Korea, according to a report in the Korea Times on November 10, 2014, as part of a concerted effort to improve ties and connections between the two countries, following a surge in tourism from Seoul to the EU's newest member state.
According to official statistics cited in the report, South Korean tourists in the first ten months of 2014 numbered 221,215, a dramatic increase over the entire 2010 season, when just 16,504 Koreans visited. The large increase means that more Koreans have visited Croatia this year than Japanese (158,000) and Chinese (54,000) combined.
The rise in interest from Korea can partly be attributed to a rather unusual source, the success of a romantic reality show called The Romantic (see video above) which, according to Croatia Week, took the exhibiting Zagreb Tourist Board by surprise at the 25th Korea World Travel Fair in 2012, when the Zagreb stand was mobbed by young Korean females. It transpired that the attraction of Croatia was linked to the show, whose narrator is one of South Korea's popular celebrities, Lee Seung Gi.
"Korea is the most important market for us in Asia," said Minister Lorencin. "Up to 2020, we are planning to invest around 7 billion euros ($8.7 billion) in the private sector to increase the quality of hotels and infrastructure."
Lorencin's three-day visit was focused on ways to improve Croatia's tourism product for Koreans, as well as look at ways to improve flight connections, which currently are limited to charter flights.
While most of Croatia's tourist arrivals come from within Europe, the country has been looking increasingly eastwards for ways of expanding its tourism market. The first scheduled direct flights from the Middle East to Zagreb, operated by Qatar Airways, commenced last month, while the rumours of the first direct connections between Croatia and China are getting ever stronger.
The Korea Times singled out two Croatian destinations in its report as particularly attractive: the Dalmatian capital of Split with its centrepiece of the 1,700 year-old Diocletian's Palace and another UNESCO World Heritage Site at Plitvice Lakes, which recently starred in the latest official national tourist board promotion with 2Cellos (see video above).
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