Korea should upgrade the quality of its travel services in order to attract more tourists and develop the travel industry, according to Jiny Jung, head of Cosmo.Jin Tour, a company which offers premium travel services to elite travelers.
"More people from other parts of the world travel long distances to come to Korea as our national status rises. Amidst this trend, we should look back at our travel service quality and think about how we can improve it to draw more people to the country," said Jung.
She said Korea's main target should not just be tourists coming from neighbouring countries for shopping or K-pop.
Jung saw demand for privately organised tour services for foreign travelers in 2011 when she was working at a convention agency.
"At that time, the travel service quality was very disappointing. I saw a driver wearing slippers and tour guides without appropriate global etiquette," said Jung.
She started her company after observing such incidents, and now it is a leader in the private travel industry in Korea.
Some of her top clients include foreign executives, buyers, high-ranking government officials and, recently, Hollywood celebrities including Jessica Alba, Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf and Woody Allen.
Jung noted what she thinks is important in VIP travel services is paying attention to detail, not some grand and luxurious experience.
"VIPs are people who already have plenty of luxury travel experiences. So we are not trying to impress them with something grand. What we can do is in the details," said Jung.
The VIPs feel special when their culture and customs are respected, such as prayer time and special meals for Muslims.
She once received a thank-you letter from a Nigerian defence minister and his wife for something as small as an anchovy fry dish.
"The minister's wife asked me about the dish she had at a hotel and it was about some little fish," Jung recalled.
Based on a few hints about the anchovy fry, Jung bought the ingredients and asked a chef at a bar near the airport to make a dish that was similar to what the wife had eaten.
She was able to give the dish to the wife with the recipe before their departure.
"That's when I learned what I should do to impress VIPs," Jung said.
Jung also stressed the government should come up with more interesting tourist attractions to diversify tourists' itineraries.
"In the travel industry, the intangible travel services should be visualized," Jung noted. "The travel experiences should be interesting enough to keep tourists coming for them and find something that they can relate to."
But Jung also warned that there would be more foreign tourists who may be disappointed in travel packages offered by Korean travel companies in the future.
"In order to solve the problem, the government should work together with the travel industry to elevate its standard to match the national status. It should start with creating more travel content and establishing a guide service manual," Jung stressed.