South Korea’s airports have seen an “alarming” drop in air traffic from mainland China, according to the Korea Airports Corporation (KAC).
Reported by the Korea Herald, passenger numbers on Chinese routes operating to and from eight international airports in South Korea, excluding Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, fell 5.4% to 4.17 million passengers in the first quarter of 2017. Incheon, the country’s main international gateway, suffered a 2.9% drop.
The decrease in Chinese passenger numbers is attributed to the implementation of a travel ban to South Korea imposed by Beijing following a dispute regarding Korea’s agreement to install the USA’s THAAD missile defence system.
The decline has been more acutely felt in tourist areas like Jeju, which traditionally welcome large numbers of Chinese visitors. The number of Chinese visitors using Jeju International Airport slumped 24.1% in Q1 2017.
“Our local airports are facing unprecedented traffic decrease with the Chinese government’s ban on travel to Korea and this poses great challenges,” KAC’s vice president, Park Soon-cheon, was quoted saying.
Overall international passenger traffic at Korea’s airports increased 6.8% in Q1 2017.