North-South Peace to Attract More American Travelers

Korea Times
Kim Rahn

Peaceful resolution of the North and South Korea situation will bring more American travelers to Korea, said Walter Keats, president of Asia Pacific Travel.

Keats, founder of the American travel agency, came to Korea to participate in the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) International Destination Expo that began in Cheju on Sunday.

Korea is not a familiar travel destination to Americans, partly because they do not know much about the country but also because they think the divided country is unsafe, said the head of the one-on-one tourism operator in an interview with The Korea Times.

“The problem is that right now in the back of everybody’s mind, there’s North Korea, there’s a war. Million soldiers along the line, missiles and a nuclear test _ these are bad things for tourism. The sooner the North and South situation can be resolved peacefully, the more interesting stuff there will be for all kinds of people,’’ Keats said.

The 61-year-old travel expert with a 30-year career has visited South Korea about 20 times and North Korea, three times. His company arranges trips to North Korea, mainly Mt. Kumgang and even Pyongyang when Arirang performances are presented, but not many Americans know they can visit the Stalinist state, he said.

Asia Pacific Travel plans a trip in May first to Beijing to get visas for North Korea, to Pyongyang for an Arirang performance, and back to Beijing to head for Seoul. Travelers will then visit North Korea’s Mt. Kumgang from the South Korean border, and will travel around South Korea.

“We can’t visit Mt. Kumgang from the North. What we are trying to do is to have people go to North Korea and come across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) by land to South Korea. That will be a good tour, a real tour of Korea,’’ Keats said.

The company provides custom itineraries, using its knowledge and experience to make a tour just for each customer.

“Our main customers are 50-75 years old people, who are experienced travelers. Most Americans start traveling domestic cities, and then they go to Canada, Mexico, and then Europe. When they grow more experience and confidence that they can go anywhere, they are ready to go to Asia,’’ the tourism veteran said.

He said Korean tourism’s advantage is the compact size of the country. By driving for seven to 10 days, tourists can have a really good trip in Korea, Keats said.

The president added that the Cheju promotion will be more effective to Americans in Korea and other Asian countries rather than to Americans in the United States.


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