Tourism balance in red for 22nd month

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's tourism balance was in the red in March for the 22nd consecutive month as the strong home currency encouraged South Koreans to travel abroad, data showed Friday.

The country's tourism deficit stood at US$21.6 million in March, continuing the negative trend since June 2012, according to the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute. The first-quarter tourism deficit, however, fell 34.7 percent to $720.1 million from $1.1 billion a year ago on increased spending by foreign tourists, including Chinese visitors.

In the January-March period, overseas spending by South Korean travelers rose 7.5 percent to $4.51 billion from a year ago.

The expenditure by foreign tourists to South Korea spiked 22.5 percent to $3.79 billion, also on the back of Chinese shoppers, the data showed.

The country's tourism balance had been in the black from 1998 to 2000, when South Koreans refrained from travel after the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The balance reversed to the red in 2001 when overseas travel picked up again and the number of Japanese visitors dropped.

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