SEOUL - More South Koreans are visiting Singapore since the launch of direct flights with the southern port city of Busan, an increase that is set to rise further as its travellers turn to Singapore as an alternative vacation spot amid their country's ongoing trade row with Japan.
The Singapore Tourism Board said this week visitor arrivals from the greater Busan area grew 2.3 per cent between May and July compared to a year ago, after Singapore carrier SilkAir began flying there four times a week from May 1.
Greater Busan refers to Busan city - the second largest in the country with about 3.5 million people - as well as the surrounding cities such as Masan and Ulsan.
South Korea-owned Jeju Air helped fuel the rise in July by introducing direct flights as well. Visitorship from greater Busan subsequently rose 4 per cent against the same month last year, STB said in response to Straits Times' queries.
Pleased with the "steady growth", STB's regional director for North Asia Markus Tan credited it to the board's investment in the region in the past year, culminating in last month's four-day "Summer with Singapore in Busan" event.
It drew 9,000 people, he added.
Held at Busan's most popular Haeundae beach, the festival was designed to "spread Singapore's charms", by giving the South Koreans a taste of its food, entertainment and nightlife.
Singapore's dessert chef Janice Wong created an edible artwork while restaurant chef Wayne Liew whipped up iconic Singapore dishes such as chilli crab and cereal prawns. Mixologist Leon Tan and DJ LeNERD added to the allure.
Popular Korean singers Sam Kim and Jung Seung-hwan entertained the crowds while Korean YouTuber Chang Hyun, who has 2.4 million followers, led a street karaoke contest.
Singapore drew a total of 629,000 South Koreans to its shores last year.
Besides the ongoing trade row with Japan drawing more South Koreans to Singapore this year, the takeover of SilkAir's flights to Busan on Oct 28 by Singapore Airlines will probably also add to the increase as its move will raise seat capacity by 76 per cent.
Demand for travel to and from Busan is "very encouraging", said SIA. Its larger aircraft can take 123 more passengers compared with SilkAir's 162-seat planes.