North Korea is making “big efforts” to develop its tourism sector, with plans to open new flights to the capital Pyongyang and allow tourists to visit “all year round”.
The communist state announced its plans to attract more tourists, promising the introduction of new flights to Pyongyang from China, Southeast Asia and Europe, according to North Korean state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Direct air travel to the country is currently limited, with China being the main entry point.
“Abundant in tourism resources, the North has a bright future to develop tourism,” Jo Song Gyu, director of the state-run International Travel Company, told KCNA in a meeting with overseas travel companies from China, Britain, Germany and other countries.
Koryo Tours, a British-run, Beijing-based travel company specialising in tours to North Korea, said tourists would now be welcome to visit the country “all year round”. In previous years, North Korea had closed its borders from mid-December to mid-January each year, according to the operator.
“The country will stay open to tourists all year round,” the company said in a statement on its website and “you can now spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).”
North Korea is expecting to recruit the help of foreign experts to manage its restaurants, resorts and hotels which will be renovated “at the world’s level” featuring new fitness centres and duty-free shops, said Jo.
Its main tourist areas, including Paektu Mountain, Kumgang, Chilbo and Wonsan, “will be run in the form of a special zone for tourism” and all relevant activities and logistics such as “passage through boundaries, customs, taxes, communications and investment protection will go by the DPRK’s relevant law on special zones as well as the international rules,” he added.
One of the most reclusive countries in the world has generated a surge in interest despite the threat of nuclear war in recent years.
Britain’s Regent Holidays, the Bristol-based company that pioneered trips to North Korea, reported a 400 per cent increase in inquires from people wanting to visit the communist regime earlier this year.
The company saw a big leap in the number of holidaymakers travelling to the country, with numbers doubling in the last three years.
In May, Chinese news agencies reported North Korea may be opening its borders to day-trippers, allowing visitors to cross from Dandong City in China to Sinuiju, North Korea’s largest border town.
The Telegraph’s Nigel Richardson also travelled to North Korea a few weeks after the premiere of a controversial Panorama programme on the country earlier this year, describing it as “the most secretive, eccentric, thought-provoking, frightening and – yes – amusing destination on earth”.
“Contrary to what you might think it’s not hard to get in. Neither is it dangerous to be there, so long as you’re not wilfully stupid,” he added.
The Foreign Office states that most visits to North Korea are trouble-free and that there is no immediate increased risk or danger to those living or travelling there. But it does warn the situation could change quickly.
It also advises British nationals to register with the British Embassy in Pyongyang on arrival. It is not possible for holidaymakers to enter from South Korea.