How South Koreans Plan Trips - and Why You Should Care

Oct 19, 2018

By Peter Sukonek, Brand and Marketing Consultant | Breakthrough Brand |

Let’s get straight to the point: you should care about the ways that South Koreans get information about travel to your location, because the South Korean outbound tourism market is exploding.

And it’s time to prepare.

When I lived in South Korea in the late 1990s through 2009, Korean tourism was on the rise. 

But not anything like this. Check it out:

In 2017,  South Korean outbound tourist departures reached 26.5 MILLION,  and as of September 2018, current South Korean outbound numbers are  already at 16.8 MILLION .

That number is  expected to grow 7% year over year through 2027 – that’s 80% growth from today.

The top countries to which Koreans travel are China, Japan, and Vietnam, followed by other Asian countries. North America and European locations are experiencing continued new growth.

How South Koreans do travel research in one word: NAVER

Contrary to popular opinion, when South Koreans do trip research they tend to not use Google, the most popular search engine in the world, except for Korea. This is particularly true for travel research in Korea.

Instead, South Koreans use the popular  NAVER portal —which is like Reddit and Yahoo combined. There are many elements to the platform, but the most important are  NAVER Blog  and  NAVER Café  (a NAVER Café is similar to an online forum).

Specifically, they use the NAVER platform to figure out where to stay, where to eat, and what to do, including interesting, off-beat cafes, stores, and shopping venues they can visit while on-location.

The most important elements of the NAVER platform for Koreans when they investigate ideas for vacation travel is NAVER blogs, as there are thousands of individual South Korean travel bloggers who offer suggestions, ideas, and tips about travel to almost any location in the world. South Koreans follow these NAVER influencers for recommendations and suggestions about hot-spots where they travel.

If your business is experiencing Korean tourist traffic, or you are seeing more Korean tourist activity in your location, it is imperative that you put down a brand-stake on this important online travel research platform for Koreans.

The Instagram contender: Kakao Story for Korean outbound tourist research

Kakao Story , the Korean version of instagram, is very popular with both Korean travelers and travel influencers. As Korean tourists plan their trips, most check with important Kakao Story influencers and look to them for ideas about where to visit.

Kakao Talk for hospitality & tourism businesses

Kakao Talk  is a massively popular instant messenger platform, with 99.2% penetration (FB messenger is a distant 2nd at 29.7%). Almost every business in South Korea uses the platform to communicate instantly with customers, much like Facebook messenger works.

In the same way that Korean businesses communicate with their clients on Kakao Talk, so also you can communicate with South Korean tourists when they visit your area. The only issues is that you will need to communicate in Korean.

How to reach outbound Korean tourists

Reaching the massive, emerging outbound South Korean tourist market may be challenging. But for hotels, resorts, restaurants, and cafes who need to make their presence known online to this market, being aware of the tools they use to research trips is critical.

It is critical that your brand be present on the NAVER platform

It is recommended that you first put down a “brand-stake” in the most popular online destination for online travel research: NAVER. The first step is to create your own branded NAVER blog, and then work from that foundation to reach out to other NAVER components, such as NAVER Cafes that are relevant to your niche.

Your NAVER brand presence is an important home-base in Korean that will allow the Korean tourist market to get to know you better, both as they research, when on location, and it also allows them to stay in touch when they leave.

And don’t forget: Facebook, Instagram, and other Kakao services are also widely used

In conjunction with your NAVER blog, which represents your “brand-stake” in the market, be sure to coordinate and syncronize messaging, in Korean, on Facebook, Instagram, and Kakao Story.

Facebook and Instagram in the Korean language are also gaining popularity, and cannot be ignored when you want to market your hospitality or F&B venue to the Korean tourist market.

Ultimately, to have Korean-language social media strategy that appeals to Korean tourists will be not only a brand asset that will grow brand equity in the Korean social media world, but it will also be a platform for driving new revenue, pushing promotions, and staying connected over time.

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