April 12, 2022 12:55
Korea's tourist hotspots are enjoying a gradual return of customers as Korea returns to normal, and commercial space in formerly bustling shopping areas is in demand again.
Seoul's cherry-blossom street in Yeouido drew around 120,000 visitors on Sunday alone after it was allowed again for the first time in three years.
Amusement parks and hotels across the country are witnessing a boom in business this spring. Lotte World Adventure Busan which had its grand opening in late March, saw 60,000 visitors in the first 10 days of this month. Operators limited the daily number of visitors at 6,000 or 50 percent of capacity, but tickets sold out as soon as they became available.
Jeju Island was also teeming with visitors drawn by its spring flowers. According to the Jeju Tourism Association, 3.45 million people visited the southern resort island so far this year, up 37.4 percent on-year.
In Seoul's Myeong-dong shopping district, store vacancy rates surpassed 50 percent last year because the Chinese tourists that had become its lifeblood stayed home. But now a huge new Apple Store has opened in the area and other commercial space is being snapped up again.
Office worker Jung Hae-won (42) said, "There are so many people here now that it makes you wonder if this is the same place that was totally deserted during the coronavirus pandemic."
Even small groups of foreign tourists can be spotted in Myeong-dong since the government scrapped quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers. Some group tours have been flown in from Singapore and Malaysia since late March, and Shinsegae's duty-free shop there was busy preparing to welcome them.
A staffer at the store said, "Dozens of tourists from Thailand are scheduled to visit in mid-April."
In other areas like Itaewon and Garosugil in southern Seoul, which epitomized the devastation wrought by COVID among small businesses, empty store spaces filling up again.
According to the Korea Real Estate Board, the store vacancy rate in Garosugil recovered from 20 percent in early 2021 to a nugatory 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter last year, while the vacancy rate in Itaewon declined from 26.7 percent to around nine percent.
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