Travel Agencies Hit as Koreans Shun Japan

  • By Kim Sun-yup

    September 05, 2019 12:24

    Travel agencies are reeling from a boycott of Japan, which used to account for more than 20 percent of overseas travel, and massive protests in Hong Kong are also deterring many Chuseok holidaymakers.

    This year's Chuseok is also shorter than usual, which makes it even more difficult to attract business. Until the first half of this year, travel agencies here were optimistic about ticket sales to Japan during Chuseok. But such hopes were dashed after Koreans began boycotting Japan in July after Tokyo announced restrictions on exports of key high-tech materials to Korea.

    Travel reservations at Hana Tour as of Tuesday show trips to Japan accounting for only 3.2 percent of all flight bookings. During the same period last year, they accounted for 21.3 percent.

    To Hong Kong, the next-favorite destination among Koreans in terms of distance, the proportion of flight bookings rose only slightly from 19.6 percent last year to 21.1 percent this year, but overall numbers are smaller. Bookings to Vietnam, Thailand and other Southeast Asian tourist spots rose from 39.7 percent to 56.3 percent.

    A Hana Tour staffer said, "We project reservation rates this Chuseok to fall around 20 percent compared to the same period of last year."

    A check-in area for flights to Japan is deserted at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday. /Yonhap

    But the shorter break is proving a boon for domestic hotels as many people are staying in the country for a staycation. According to hotel industry insiders on Tuesday, reservations at top hotels in downtown Seoul have soared.

    Domestic tourist sites are being criticized for failing to develop attractions enticing enough to lure travelers who have chosen to stay in the country.

    According to Interpark Tour, reservation rates for domestic tourist attractions, including Jeju Island, during Chuseok remained unchanged from last year. One travel industry insider said, "Domestic tourist attractions lack appeal and are not that affordable either. As a result, many people feel it's better to book hotel packages for a staycation without being bothered by hectic schedules or the hassle of traveling all the way to a popular destination and back."

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