The travel industry is expected to see even better business thanks to a surge in the number of people who want to spend Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving abroad.
The rosy earnings climate contrasts starkly with conditions facing manufacturing and other industries, which are grim due to the prolonged recession.
The Chuseok holiday falls on Thursday, Sept. 19 this year and normally includes the day before and after, which translates into five days off including the weekend. But many will take the previous Monday and Tuesday off too, giving them nine days in which to travel.
No. 1 travel agency Hana Tour on Wednesday said reservations for outbound travel packages in September have increased 31 percent from a year ago, when Chuseok fell on the weekend.
The increase is even more marked than the 19.4 percent and 9.4 percent on-year during the peak summer months of July and August this year.
Mode Tour said outbound bookings for September are up 34 percent, and the situation is the same at other travel agencies. Industry sources say the long Chuseok holidays plus the economic slump are prompting more Koreans to seek an escape from their daily lives. Also, many people appear to have opted to take a late summer leave to go overseas as Chuseok comes earlier than usual.
The airline industry will also see sales rise. Korean Air said flights to Europe for the long Chuseok holidays are 99 percent booked, and flights to Australia and New Zealand 98 percent. Asiana Airlines said its flights to Australia and New Zealand are 97 percent booked and flights to Europe, Southeast Asia and China 95 percent.
Korean Air tickets to China and Asiana tickets to Japan are still available. "Unlike previous years when flights to China and Japan were fully booked, the long Chuseok holidays have prompted many people to choose destinations that are further away," said Ku Eun-kyoung at Korean Air.
Low-cost carriers are also laughing all the way to the bank. Jeju Air said its average reservation rate for the Chuseok holidays stands at 95 percent, while Jin Air said flights to Guam are 99 percent filled and flights to 11 overseas destinations 90 percent.
But Choi Chang-woo at the Korea Association of Travel Agents said small travel agencies continued to face tough financial conditions despite growing demands for overseas travel.