Seoul City Bus Tour is seeing fewer and fewer passengers as critics accuse the rides of failing to catch up with the interests of visitors. The rides started in 2000 catering mostly to foreign tourists visiting the capital, and two private operators run 21 buses on six different routes.
The operators complain that their problem is a lack of funding. The Seoul Metropolitan Government subsidized them until 2011, but now they have to fend for themselves.
The number of users dropped from 251,000 in 2014 to 194,000 last year and stood at only 66,000 in the first five months of this year, or 437 a day. That means each bus carries only four or five passengers at a time, and foreigners account for a paltry 30 percent of the total.
The operators fired tour guides to save costs, and some have barely adequate foreign-language services that are no better than those on public buses and subways. The drivers are not fluent enough in foreign languages to replace the tour guides.
One 21-year-old tourist from Singapore who took the tour last month, said, "There seems to be no particular benefit other than taking you to your destination." Many tourists complain about a lack of inter-connecting routes.
The fare ranges between W12,000 and W15,000 (US$1=W1,128). One staffer said, "We're suffering losses each year but have raised fares only once over the last 15 years because the city sets the fare."
In London, tourists pay a whopping 38.7 pounds (around W58,000) for a two-day ticket for a double-decker tour bus that comes with a tour guide and audio devices in 12 languages. Riders can hop on and off buses on three different routes.
The city tour bus in Paris costs 37 euros (around W49,000) for a two-day ticket that takes riders to more than 100 sites in the city. Tourists can hop on and off the buses regardless of route, while an audio device offers information in 10 languages.