North Korea gaining popularity as tourism destination
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
North Korea is renowned for its secrecy and hesitation to admit international visitors. Securing a tourist visa can be challenging, yet the country's reclusive foreign policy makes it an alluring destination for many visitors, especially those from the West. While visiting North Korea is far from simple, that could soon change following renewed interest in the country after its recent nuclear test, reports Agence France-Presse.
North Korea enraged the international community with its third successful test of a nuclear weapon earlier this year. While the move may have caused friction on the global stage, it also created renewed interest in the nation as a tourist destination. Officials claim that the nuclear test has led to a surge of interest in North Korea, and although few hard facts are available, the country remains confident that tourism will become a major growth industry in the coming years.
"The global popularity of tourism to [North Korea] is booming," read an official statement from the Korean Central News Agency, as quoted by the news source. "Most tourists gave positive reviews about their experiences in [North Korea] on the Internet and other media … and the range of travel routes is expanding."
At present, China remains North Korea's largest tourism market, with many Chinese visitors traveling to the capital of Pyongyang. While it is unlikely that individuals from the West will be able to stay in serviced apartments and furnished extended stay housing units any time soon, the popularity of the nation could gain momentum.
According to The Atlantic Wire, if North Korea wants to leverage heightened interest in the country, major changes will have to be made.
Currently, transportation networks to North Korea are highly restrictive, with only two airlines serving routes between Pyongyang and China, state-owned Koryo and Air China. Koryo is the world's only carrier with a one-star rating, and the airline is not presently permitted to operate in the European Union due to safety concerns.
In addition, the governments of several Western nations including the U.S. and U.K. have travel advisories in place for North Korea. American visitors have been subject to arrest and prolonged detention while visiting North Korea, and the U.S. government advises against recreational tourism in the country.
Whether North Korea can overcome these obstacles remains to be seen. However, if the country's official news agency is to be believed, more Westerners could soon be headed to Pyongyang to learn more about South Korea's reclusive neighbor to the north.