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Why This Asian Capital Is Now One Of The Most Popular Destinations In The World

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Travelers from all over the world are flocking to a fully open Asia for longer, multi-country trips this year. 

U.S. travelers in particular are looking east this year. According to data from travel app Hopper, all three of this past summer’s top trending destinations among U.S. tourists were Asian cultural capitals. 

Seoul, South Korea is a major destination leading this trend. In fact, Seoul is the 11th most popular city in the world for international tourists, according to Mastercard’s Global Destinations Cities Index.

The number of tourists to South Korea quadrupled at the beginning of this year, with a total of 4.4 million visitors to the country as of this June. According to experts, that number is expected to double by the end of the year.

Solo female traveler tourist in South Korea in front of Lotte World Tower with cherry blossoms and blue water in the park

So, why is the South Korean capital more popular now than ever before?

Here are four reasons why Seoul is now one of the most popular destinations in the world:

Trendy Revival of Seochon Neighborhood

The 500-year-old neighborhood of Seochon has changed a lot since its heyday in the Joseon era. 

Today, the historical neighborhood has been restored and revived, creating an irresistible mix of authenticity and modernity.

An infusion of trendy new businesses and an influx of young creative Koreans has breathed new life into Seochon over the last few years. Narrow curving alleyways lined with traditional Korean homes (hanok) of polished dark wood and white stone give way to creative shops and popular corner cafes. 

Tourists are drawn to the authentic atmosphere of the village. Local food stall owner Jo Gyeonghwan told CNA Luxury, “If you explore the alleys, you can see renovated hanok-style cafes and restaurants which cannot be easily found in other areas.”

Recently restored homestays are marketed to travelers looking for a unique traditional experience in a vibrant area. Architect Park Jung Hyun has been remodeling these homes for many years. With trendy styles “ranging from a Korean-Scandinavian design to an earthy-modernist hideout,” these renovated hanoks offer something for every kind of traveler.

Seochon village in Seoul South Korea

Seoul Set-Jetting 

This year, more travelers than ever before are choosing their destinations based on their favorite TV series and movies in a red-hot travel trend known as “set-jetting.”

XO, Kitty, a spin-off of the record-breaking American Netflix series To All The Boys, recently held the #3 slot in Netflix’s top 10 rankings and generated a cult-like fan following. A first of its kind, the series draws key inspiration from popular K-dramas while keeping things accessible in an English language format. The series is set almost entirely in Seoul and features a few of the city’s famous landmarks. 

Fans of the uber-popular series are flocking from the U.S., Europe, and beyond to the South Korean capital to see where some of its most epic scenes were filmed. The most iconic spots from the series include the love locks at the N Seoul Tower and the Grand Hyatt Seoul.

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Love Locks in Seoul South Korea

And it’s not just XO, Kitty bringing Western tourists to the sites of their favorite Korean shows. 

According to the New York Times, 60% of global Netflix users have watched a Korean-language TV show or film. (Earlier this year, Extraordinary Attorney Woo – an inspirational series about an autistic lawyer– skyrocketed into Netflix’s top 10 in over 50 countries.)

Data from Expedia shows that two-thirds of travelers have considered taking a trip based on their favorite shows. With the wildfire of international fandom of Korean series and movies, the set-jetting trend will probably continue to lean in Seoul’s favor.

Tourist solo female traveler at the historical palace in Seoul South Korea

Tik Tok Tourism and Gen Z Trends

Yep, it’s another TikTok sensation driving a tourism boom. 

‘Personal Color Analysis’ is the latest craze – and it’s got travelers running right to Seoul. In a 60-minute consultation, experts figure out what colors of clothes, makeup, accessories, and hair are most flattering to your skin tone. 

According to TIME, the topic “personal color analysis Korea” has 375 million TikTok views

While the service has been around for decades for public figures, the Korean beauty industry has been leading the charge in making it accessible to everyday people. 

Like many other beauty and cosmetic services, personal color analysis prices in Seoul are up to 70% lower than in other major cities like New York or L.A., making it a motivating factor for international tourism. 

In fact, so many tourists are coming to Seoul for this service that the Korean Tourism Organization set up a pop-up color analysis studio in New York’s Rockefeller Center this summer. Unsurprisingly, it was a massive hit – especially among Gen Z.

Personal Color Analysis trending travel boom in Seoul South Korea

New Direct Flights

Today, it’s easier than ever to fly to the South Korean capital. While Seoul’s Incheon Airport has long been a key international flight hub, it’s seeing a surge in new routes from all over the world these days.

United Airlines increased their flights from San Francisco to Seoul by 70% earlier this year, while Virgin Atlantic teased new routes for next year. 

Some budget airlines are promising prices 20% lower than full-service carriers like Korean Air and Asiana, making Seoul more accessible to travelers on a lower budget. Low-cost carrier Air Premia also launched a new route from Newark to Seoul this past May, while Northern Pacific Airlines plans to offer more affordable flights to Seoul and other Asian destinations via Alaska by the end of this year.

Seoul Incheon Airport

In Europe, Prague Airport launched new direct flights to Seoul at the start of the summer season. In Australia, Jetstar also launched a long-awaited service from Sydney to Seoul a few months ago. Asian destinations like Vietnam, Japan, and Singapore also added new routes from both full-service and low-cost carriers.

As airlines all over the world scramble to meet increased demand for flights to Seoul, it’s safe to say we’re not the only ones seeing this Asian capital’s popularity skyrocket!

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