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2013 foreign visitors to Seoul exceed 10 mil.

The Korea Herald/Asia News Network--The number of foreign tourists to Seoul surpassed 10 million last year to set a new high, a municipal report showed Thursday.

Officials from Seoul Institute said the Chinese made up the largest group of visitors to the metropolis, pointing out that Seoul appears to have become an attractive destination due in part to Beijing's eased travel regulations and the local cultural attractions.

According to the report, around 10.04 million foreign visitors made a trip to the capital, up 9.3 percent from 2012.

Some 12 million foreign travelers entered South Korea last year.

“Although the number of Japanese decreased, the rise of Chinese tourists helped the total visitors to exceed 10 million,” said Keum Ki-yong, a research fellow at the institute.

While the number of Japanese tumbled by 22 percent to about 2.3 million last year, the number of those from China surged to 3.6 million on-year, up 53 percent.

An average trip to the city was estimated to cost 1.41 million won (US$1,300), double the rate from 2007.

Visitors stayed an average 5.4 days last year, a half-day increase from 2008. More than half of visitors spent nights at middle- to low-cost accommodations such as inns, guest houses and youth hostels instead of luxury hotels.

Tourists from Taiwan spent the most per person at 1.45 million won on average, followed by Chinese with 1.44 million won, and Japanese with 1.39 million.

All groups of travelers spent the most on shopping — about 540,000 won on average per person — followed by accommodation, with 490,000 won. The rest of the spending was on entertainment and food, with 320,000 won and 280,000 won, respectively.

By nationality, tourists from Hong Kong spent the most on shopping with 860,000 won on average per person, while Chinese visitors spent the equivalent amount in entertainment. Japanese spent the most on accommodation, with about 630,000 won. American travelers spent the most on food, with about 380,000 won.

Their preferences for sightseeing attractions have changed over the last seven years, the report showed. While traditionally popular spots such as Namdaemun and Dongdaemun saw a 10 percent drop in visitors, new tourist locations have started to gain popularity. Hongdae district, Samcheong-dong and Cheong Wa Dae have seen about a 30 percent rise in number of visitors.

The number visiting upscale shopping districts in Apgujeong-dong and Sinsa-dong, Gangnam, also increased by 22 percent.

Their biggest complaints had to do with language barriers, which accounted for half of the problems.

Traffic congestion, aggressive sales strategies and lack of visitor information were also cited as top problems that need to be fixed, it added.

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