The sky roads, which had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been opened. As the COVID-19 vaccination rate increases worldwide, international flights are being resumed mainly in ‘Travel Bubble’ countries.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on the 4th, Korea’s 1st-shot vaccination rate was 77.3% and the vaccination completion rate was 52.5% as of 0 o’clock on the 3rd. It means that 1 out of 2 people can travel to a Travel Bubble country. As a result, airlines are increasing their international routes and travel agencies are also rapidly releasing tour packages. The most well-known Travel Bubble route is Incheon-Saipan. Demand for tour packages to Saipan increased during the Chuseok holiday in all three airlines, Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, and T’way Airlines. According to the Marianas Visitors Authority, the number of Korean tourists who reserved a trip to Saipan (as of the end of last month) exceeded 4,000. The boarding rate for Incheon-Saipan flights operated by Asiana Airlines was 85% on the 18th of last month.
More than 95% of them were tourists who bought tour package. From July to August, the demand for Travel Bubble was less than 10 per flight on average. “It is the largest since Korea and Saipan signed the ‘Travel Bubble’ agreement,” an official from Asiana Airlines said. “We are expecting that more than 1,000 people will reserve the tour package by the end of the year.”
The travel demand for Jeju Air to Saipan also reached 1,200 people after Chuseok holiday. Jeju Air is operating the Incheon-Saipan route once a week. The reservation rate for the Incheon-Saipan route operated by T’way Airlines also reportedly exceeded 80% this month and 90% next month.
Form the next month, passengers can visit more countries. Asiana Airlines will resume the Incheon-Guam route twice a week as early as next month. It has already received permission for the operation of the route from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport last month, and it only remains final approval from the quarantine authorities. Previously, Asiana Airlines withdrew its Incheon-Guam route due to worsening profitability with the emergence of low-cost carriers (LCC). If the Incheon-Guam will be resumed as scheduled, it will be the first operation in 18 years.
Since August, Korean Air has been operating the Incheon-Guam route irregularly once a week. It will operate the Incheon-Hanoi route next year, and is also planning to resume the Incheon-Hawaii route. Most LCCs are also going to resume international flights to Guam and Southeast Asia.
As sky roads have opened, travel agencies are also preparing tour packages. Lotte Tour Development released an overseas tour package for the first time in a year and a half. Tourists, who booked the tour package, enjoyed traveling to Switzerland, minimizing indoor activities and mostly touring outdoor attractions. Modoo tour also sent about 60 people who applied a tour package to Guam during the last Chuseok holiday. It’s been about a year and a half.
According to the travel industry, Hana Tour began its normal working system from the 1st of this month. Its employees on unpaid leave returned to the work and employees who were working from home were also back to the office. As Hana Tour was hit directly by COVID-19 pandemic and its sales also decreased by more than 90% in a year, about 1,700 executives and employees were on paid or unpaid leave since April last year, excluding essential personnel.
“If the ‘With Corona’ is implemented, it will be a lifesaver of travel industry, which is suffering from the COVID-19,” an official from a travel company said. “For the time being, it is expected than demand for travel to Guam, Saipan, and Europe will be more than Southeast Asia and the U.S.”