When a brutal, communist dictatorship is able to attract tourists, the most obvious question is: Who?
North Korea was isolated further Friday as the United States that it will ban its citizens from visiting the country. Given the worrying headlines that consistently swirl around the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, common sense suggests that you'd be hard pressed to find a vacationer willing to take a trip there. But international tourists do visit — and in the thousands.
Tourists range in age from students to the retired, Simon Cockerell, Beijing-based general manager of Koryo Tours, one of the largest international operators of trips to North Korea, told CNBC via telephone. Cockerell detailed that it was "very common to have people booking alone."
Lupine Travel, a British company that offers trips to North Korea, told CNBC via e-mail that roughly 75 percent of its clientele are male.
For Koryo Tours, U.S. and U.K. nationals each make up 20 percent of its customer base. The rest comprises of travelers from northern and western Europe, as well as Australians, Canadians and those from Middle Eastern countries including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The non-Chinese tourist market is currently 4,000-4,500 per year, down from a high of 6,000 in 2012, according to Cockerell.