The Astonishing Rise of South Korea as a Top Global Destination

Asia is becoming a popular destination for travelers from around the world, especially for longer, multi-country trips. This trend is particularly evident among U.S. tourists, who are increasingly looking to explore Asian cultural capitals. According to data from travel app Hopper, the top three trending destinations for U.S. tourists this past summer were all in Asia. Seoul, South Korea, in particular, stands out as a leading destination in this trend. In fact, it is ranked as the 11th most popular city in the world for international tourists, according to Mastercard’s Global Destinations Cities Index.

The number of tourists visiting South Korea has quadrupled since the beginning of the year, with 4.4 million visitors as of June. Experts predict that this number will double by the end of the year. So, why is Seoul experiencing a surge in popularity? Here are four reasons:

1. Trendy Revival of Seochon Neighborhood: The historical neighborhood of Seochon, which dates back 500 years to the Joseon era, has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. It has been restored and revived, creating a unique blend of authenticity and modernity. The neighborhood now features trendy new businesses and attracts a young, creative crowd. The narrow alleys lined with traditional Korean homes (hanok) give way to creative shops and popular cafes. Tourists are drawn to the authentic atmosphere of the village, with renovated hanok-style cafes and restaurants offering a unique experience. Recently restored homestays cater to travelers seeking a traditional yet vibrant experience.

2. Seoul Set-Jetting: A growing trend known as “set-jetting” has influenced travelers’ destination choices. This trend involves visiting places where favorite TV series and movies were filmed. One such series, XO, Kitty, a spin-off of the popular American Netflix series To All The Boys, has generated a cult-like following. The series is set in Seoul and features some of the city’s famous landmarks. Fans from the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world are flocking to Seoul to see the locations where their favorite scenes were filmed. Other Korean-language TV shows and films on platforms like Netflix have also attracted a global audience, with data from Expedia showing that two-thirds of travelers have considered planning a trip based on their favorite shows.

3. TikTok Tourism and Gen Z Trends: The latest TikTok sensation driving tourism to Seoul is “Personal Color Analysis.” This trend involves a consultation where experts determine the most flattering colors of clothing, makeup, accessories, and hair based on an individual’s skin tone. This service has gained popularity in Korea, with the topic “personal color analysis Korea” garnering millions of TikTok views. The Korean beauty industry has made this service accessible and affordable for everyday people, with prices up to 70% lower than in other major cities. This trend has attracted tourists, especially from the younger generation, who are keen to explore the world of Korean beauty and fashion.

4. New Direct Flights: Traveling to Seoul has become more convenient with the increase in direct flights to the city. Incheon Airport, a key international flight hub, has seen a surge in new routes from various parts of the world. Airlines such as United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and budget carriers have increased their flights or introduced new routes to Seoul. This has made the city more accessible, especially for travelers on a lower budget. Other Asian destinations like Vietnam, Japan, and Singapore have also added new routes, further increasing connectivity in the region.

As the demand for flights to Seoul continues to rise, airlines worldwide are working to meet the increased demand. This indicates that the popularity of Seoul as a travel destination is on the rise, not only for U.S. tourists but for travelers from all over the world.

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