South Korea’s tourism industry calls for K-ETA rule revisions for Thai visitors

South Korea’s tourism sector is urging the government to revise K-ETA regulations for Thai visitors, citing significant economic potential and the need to streamline entry processes to boost tourism and strengthen bilateral relations.

South Korea’s tourism industry is advocating for a revision of the current Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) rules concerning Thai visitors, to boost tourism and enhance bilateral relations between the two countries. Industry leaders argue that the existing K-ETA regulations are overly restrictive and pose significant barriers for Thai tourists who wish to visit South Korea, ultimately hindering the potential for economic growth and cultural exchange.

The K-ETA system, introduced to streamline the entry process for short-term visitors from visa-exempt countries, has faced criticism for its stringent application requirements and approval process. Despite the system’s intent to facilitate smoother and more efficient entry into South Korea, many in the tourism sector believe that it has become a bottleneck, particularly for tourists from Thailand. This has led to calls for a more flexible and visitor-friendly approach to enhance the appeal of South Korea as a travel destination.

According to the Korea Tourism Organization, Thailand is a significant source of inbound tourists, with a growing number of Thai nationals showing interest in South Korean culture, entertainment, and attractions. The tourism sector in South Korea views this as an opportunity to tap into a lucrative market that can contribute substantially to the local economy. Industry representatives highlight that simplifying the K-ETA process for Thai visitors could result in a marked increase in tourist arrivals, boosting revenue for hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related businesses.

Tourism industry stakeholders emphasize the economic benefits of revising the K-ETA rules. They argue that a more accommodating policy could lead to a surge in tourist numbers, thereby generating increased spending on local services and products. This would not only support the recovery of South Korea’s tourism sector, which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but also foster deeper cultural and economic ties between South Korea and Thailand.

The push for K-ETA rule revisions is also seen as a strategic move to enhance South Korea’s competitiveness as a top tourist destination in the region. Neighbouring countries such as Japan and Vietnam have implemented more lenient travel policies for Thai visitors, and South Korea risks losing out on potential tourism revenue if it does not adapt its regulations accordingly. By easing the K-ETA requirements, South Korea can better position itself to attract a greater share of the Thai tourism market.

Proponents of the policy change argue that streamlining the K-ETA process for Thai nationals would not compromise South Korea’s security or immigration control. They suggest that a balanced approach, which includes maintaining necessary security measures while removing unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, would be most effective in promoting tourism without sacrificing safety.