Tourism players in Jeju are struggling to attract visitors after the Chinese government banned travel agents from selling package tours to South Korea.
The resort island usually attracts three million Chinese tourists a year, but arrivals have plummeted more than 44 per cent in the three weeks since the ban was imposed.
Tourists at Seongsan Ilchulbong or Sun Rise Peak, Jeju
Brian Kim, assistant manager of the Jeju Tourism Organisation (JTO), observed: "Almost all flights and cruise ship port calls have been cancelled, which is a very serious problem for the tourist industry here."
In response, the JTO is stepping up marketing efforts elsewhere in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, Kim said, but the impacts on businesses are expected to be severe. "We see the problem continuing for at least one year," Kim said.
As well, the provincial government is attempting to lend a hand to the tourism sector through a price slashing campaign. Access to 28 tourist sites across the island will be complimentary throughout April, while hotels, attractions, souvenir shops, restaurants and golf courses are cutting prices by up to 65 per cent.
It also plans to attract South Koreans who have cancelled their trips to China amid the political tensions.
Meanwhile, Hank Kim, owner and CEO of Jeju-based Core Travel, said: "I feared a problem like this would happen sooner or later, so we began to diversify our client base a while ago."
"We are fortunate to have a lot of clients from the rest of Asia but a lot of companies have discovered that they were overly reliant on Chinese travellers," he added.
Han Son-hwi, a spokeswoman for the Kal Jeju Hotel, said that the marketing department has been trying to attract more guests from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore to make up for the Chinese cancellations since early March.