Busan, Striving to Attract Southeast Asian Tourists

Busan Metropolitan City (Mayor OH Keo-don) and the Busan Tourism Organization co-hosted the 2019 Busan Tourism Network Conference in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, the Southeast Asian emerging market, on March 25th, 2019.

Malaysia is a cofounder of ASEAN and a leading country in the development of Southeast Asia. In order to attract more Malaysians to Busan, the City of Busan and BTO have rigorously carried out tourism fairs and MICE road shows in Malaysia. They have also participated in diverse tourism exhibitions and invited tourism experts to Busan. Since the Korean Wave is very popular in Malaysia, the total number of passengers to Busan from Malaysia has increased from 57,820 in 2017 to 69,065 in 2018, up 19.4%.

Mayor OH Keo-don

Local travel agencies, media outlets and journalists joined and had an opportunity take a glimpse at Busan’s diverse tourism resources. Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture Ministry and major figures from government and business also partook and committed to active bilateral cooperation and the further expansion of relations.

The seminar kicked off with a promotional video showcasing Busan’s beautiful natural environments, delicious cuisine as well as diverse activities, while a presentation introducing the shooting locations of famous Korean dramas and the city’s all-year-round festivals followed. At the B2B section, 180 outbound travel agencies participated and discussed substantive cooperative projects. The Busan Metropolitan Dance Company prepared a special performance to promote Busan’s Korean Wave, which drew plenty of applause.

Mayor OH Keo-don and the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Nor Hisham A Dahlan had a meeting and discussed substantive cooperative measures within the tourism, MICE and smart city sectors. Mayor OH also met Mr. Benyamin Ismail, CEO of Air Asia X and proposed developing tourism products and supportive incentives for in and outbound travel agencies.

Special prizes were also awarded to 5 outbound travel agencies in Malaysia to commend their devotion in attracting tourists to Busan. He emphasized their role in boosting exchanges and encouraged them to continue to actively engage in promoting tourism.

In an interview, an official from Busan said, “Last year, we had 440,000 tourists from 6 Southeast Asian countries, the number is second only to Japan. Every week, 26 flights connect Busan and the 2 major states of Malaysia. The Korean Wave is booming in Malaysia, so I hope this makes Malaysians visit Busan more.”

Busan Metropolitan City plans to develop tailored tourism products for Southeast Asian tourists by fully utilizing Busan’s excellent tourism contents: the Korean Wave, beauty, healing and festivals. Busan will also strive to expand Halal restaurants and prayer rooms, so that Southeast Asian tourists can feel comfortable and enjoy Busan to its fullest.


Before the network conference session, we attended Q&A session with Mayor OH Keo-don. Here some of the questions asked during the session.

1. What is the purpose of this visit?

ASEAN is a powerful emerging market in the tourism industry. Through functional exchanges and cooperation with ASEAN we are seeking the joint development of the two markets, as it is also in line with our New Southern Policy at the city’s diplomatic level.

Malaysia is one of the founding members of ASEAN and is leading the development within the ASEAN region. We have seen a growing interest in the K-wave and Korean culture among Malaysians, and last year we had a big increase in the no. of Malaysians visiting Busan. To strengthen cooperation between the two cities in the area of tourism, we have organised the event which is taking place today.

2. Will you briefly introduce today’s event?

Today we have the Deputy Minister of Tourism Art & Culture (H.E Mr, Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik), government officials, travel agencies, journalists and representative from various media outlets and the tourism industry gracing with their presence at our event. As they have all graciously gathered here, we wish to promote tourism in Busan and generate awareness and publicity of Busan as preferred travel destination.

We are going to start the event by watching a promotional video, featuring charms that you can enjoy only in Busan in terms of nature, culinary delights, activities and experiences. This will be followed by a presentation, which will present the hottest K-drama filming locations, information on the latest tourist attractions and the bountiful festivals taking place throughout the four seasons. It will end with a dance performance featuring aspects of Korean culture by the Busan Metropolitan Dance Theatre.


3. What is the strategy or plan of Busan to attract more Southeast Asian tourists?

I see Malaysia as a country with one of the highest levels of industrialization amongst ASEAN countries. As such, we are actively promoting tourism in Busan through marketing campaigns to try and get in touch with as many potential tourists from here as we can. But I still see that we need to do more to understand each other better.

Leveraging Busan’s excellent tourism contents and attractions, like the K-wave, beauty industry and festivals, we will continue to develop custom-made products that will meet the needs of ASEAN tourists.

We are going to invite Youtubers, bloggers and influencers for a in-depth tour to promote the charms and attractions of Busan.

We are going to expend the accreditation of halal restaurants and build more prayer rooms and facilities so as to make sure Muslim tourists do not experience any inconveniences during their stay in Busan.

4. As a tourism city, how does Busan appeal to the world? And would you recommend a number of famous tourist sites?

Busan was listed in Lonely Planet, the world-famous traveler’s guide, as Asia’s best travel destination last year. Busan is such an attractive tourist city with so many things to try out and experience from its natural environments, sightseeing locations, culinary delights and entertainment, to its various activities and adventures. Busan International Film Festival, Fireworks Festival, One Asia Festival, Songdo cable car, Jeonpo Café Street, Gijang king crabs.

There are as many as 7 beautiful beaches in the vicinity of the city, which is not to be found in any other part of the world. Busan is an ideal city to enjoy things like movies, the K-wave, hot springs, healthcare, marine leisure & sports, Korean cuisine, and various activities.

When you visit Busan, you will experience what you have never experienced before. You will discover a new joy of travelling. Busan welcomes you always and I look forward to seeing you in Busan.

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