July 09, 2021 13:12
Businesses are seeing their hopes crushed as the government tightened lockdown in the greater Seoul area amid a surge in coronavirus infections. One hospitality industry insider said, "We prepared some kinds of programs to make up for the lost year, but now the peak summer season has been ruined again."
A spate of infections traced to the Hyundai Department Store in Gangnam have stunned the retail industry, which was just emerging from the devastation wrought by lockdown. The mall has decided to close until next Monday as infections increased to nearly 70 cases. Other retailers also worry they will be swept up in a fresh wave of fear as customers only shop online.
One department store staffer said, "Sales had been rising since the second quarter and there were big hopes for the second half, but that's all gone now."
"We're not worried about operating hours being shortened by one or two hours, but if lockdown is tightened people will simply stop coming," a supermarket staffer said.
And a staffer at a food company said, "Catering services and suppliers of cooking ingredients have suffered for more than a year and were looking forward to the re-opening of schools. If the situation doesn't improve by September, when school starts again, we'll be out of business."
Restaurants are also bracing for the worst. They will have to close at 10 p.m. and gatherings of more than two people are banned after 6 p.m., which is their peak time, so business will remain at a trickle. Some hotels fear the whole summer is a write-off now.
They worry that the government could force them to keep bookings at 50 percent of capacity again, which is what happened right before last year's peak season. Top hotels in Seoul are now 80 percent booked on weekends, and hotels and resorts in Busan and Jeju Island are fully booked, so they may have to cancel some reservations.
"We had lots of complaints from angry guests when we had to cancel reservations late last year and we fear this might happen again," a hotel staffer said.
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