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China does U-turn on South Korea tours

China appears to have renewed its ban on travel groups to South Korea, dealing a further blow to the country’s tourism industry.

According to South Korean media reports, Chinese authorities rejected a request by a group of nationals to visit South Korea later this week.

The tourists were supposed to leave for South Korea on Friday in a trip arranged by Haitao Travel, a Chinese tour operator, media reported citing  sources.

Haitao Travel brought the first group of Chinese to South Korea earlier this month after Beijing partially lifted its travel ban. It’s unclear why Beijing appears to have once more changed its position.

China in March banned tour groups to South Korea in retaliation for Seoul’s decision to deploy the THAAD U.S. anti-missile defense system. The ban hit tourism and casino revenue hard.

The Bank of Korea said earlier this month that South Korea suffered a loss of 5 trillion won ($4.6 billion) this year due to the decreasing number of Chinese tourists. Last year, Chinese nationals accounted for nearly half of the 17 million foreigners who visited South Korea.

According to the Korea Tourism Organisation, arrivals from China, are down by a half in the 10 months through to end-October, accounting for nearly a third of all arrivals in the period.

The honeymoon island of Jeju, which is popular with tour groups, saw arrivals through to August down 48 percent, with a drop of 60 percent in that month alone.

China had signalled last month that is was prepared to relax the ban, easing tensions between the two countries. The ban does not extend to individual travel and therefore has less of an impact on VIP business in the country.

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