Saving the South Korean Tourism Industry with Eco-tour Certification

Saving the South Korean Tourism Industry with Eco-tour Certification

South Korea’s tourism/travel industry is dying as the corona virus cuts global transportation. From January to April in 2020, consumption spending on tourism and leisure in South Korea decreased by 21.2% and 11 trillion won from the same period last year. If current trends continue throughout the first half of the year, tourism revenues are expected to decrease by $844.5 billion in 2020.

Travel agencies declaring closure are increasing rapidly. According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the tourism expenditure for the four months from the beginning of this year has decreased by 11 trillion compared to the same period last year. As of April 20, the number of tourists visiting Korea has decreased by 67%. Even if the South Korea government supported 90% of employee wages, small tourist businesses cannot afford to pay the remaining 10% along with employment insurance. According to the National Statistical Office data, as of the end of 2019, there are approximately 100,000 registered travel agents in Korea. About 90,000 of them are not working.

The corona virus has changed people’s travel patterns; International travel has decreased, and domestic travel is replacing it. Interest among Koreans in finding nature such as mountains and national parks has increased rather than traveling to historic sites and other tourist attractions. The government is also promoting destinations that can help people maintain social distance, such as ‘30 bicycle paths’ and ‘13 road trip route’. There are also plans to launch new forest accommodations, sky trails (tree top trail), and eco cabins in nature. The Ministry of Environment and the Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute (KEITI) have been striving to an eco-friendly tourism culture through the certification of the carbon footprint of the tourism industry programs. A total of 37 programs in 16 regions have been certified for carbon footprint.

For example, one of the accredited tourism programs, ‘Jeju Sunhlee Ecotour’, has significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions through the use of electricity from solar power, and the use of local agricultural products and bicycles. The one night two days tour program ‘Camellia Blooming’ was certified for 14.7kgCO2 of carbon emissions per person and achieved a reduction of 92% of carbon emissions compared to 187kgCO2 per person when certified in 2016. A birdwatching tour of Cheonsuman Bay and a program to visit the Upo Swamp have been certified as having a low carbon footprint.

Activity Rating: ** Standing Still

Although several ministries are trying to save the tourism industry that has been hit by the COVID-19, most of it has focused on financial funding and links have not yet been made with Korea’s promising Green New Deal program.

Take Action


I am grateful for the government’s quick action to save the damage to the tourism market caused by COVID-19. However, in this countermeasure jointly presented by various ministries, it was difficult to find an environmentally friendly element that could be associated with Green New Deal. Please pay attention to prevent destruction of the ecosystem or damage to the existing environment when creating accommodations in nature. Also, please develop various carbon footprint certification tours for more regions and try to increase public awareness by providing relevant information to people.

Contact Information:

Minister: Park Yang-woo




Learn More:

Tourism’s Carbon Emissions Measured in Landmark Report Launched At COP25

Transport-related CO2 Emissions of the Tourism Sector – UNWTO

How to Travel with a small carbon footprint in 2019

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Korea Country Manager Ellie Jimin Kim

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