November 14, 2018 / 9:27 AM / a month ago

Doubts over China online sales of group tours to South Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - Chinese online travel agency Ctrip on Wednesday resumed offering group tours to South Korea on its platform but the packages were later pulled from the company’s website, Yonhap news agency said.

China banned group tours to South Korea in March last year after Seoul agreed to install the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defence System (THAAD). The move badly hurt South Korea’s retail and service sectors.

As tensions thawed between the nations, China in November last year allowed over-the-counter sales of package tours from Beijing and Shandong to South Korea, but kept online curbs in place.

Yonhap said on Wednesday that Ctrip was again offering group tours to South Korea. It later reported that the operator deleted those tours after South Korean media reported on the resumption.

“From this afternoon, Ctrip started selling group tours to South Korea, and Chinese authorities had signed off on them. Then, it rushed to delist those after heavy attention on Ctrip,” said a tourism industry source quoted by Yonhap.

In Beijing, a senior official at a Chinese online travel agency told Reuters that the ban on online bookings of group tours remained in place.

South Korea and the United States say the THAAD system is designed to better respond to North Korea’s missile threat, but Beijing said the system’s radar can probe deep into its territory, undermining its security.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang in SEOUL and Pei Li in BEIJING; editing by Darren Schuettler

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