June 08, 2022 13:30
Asian tourists are returning to Korea as the country opens its skies to air travel again. Since June 1 foreigners have been able to visit Jeju Island and Yangyang, Gangwon Province visa-free for a month, and hotels and casinos are experiencing a slow recovery.
Asian tourists are good news for duty-free shops. Early this week, the Shilla Duty Free shop in Jeju welcomed the first group of 170 tourists from Thailand since the pandemic started. They stocked up on Korean cosmetics, accessories and food.
In Seoul, a group of 50 Vietnamese tourists who work for a medical equipment maker had already visited the Shinsegae Duty Free shop in Myeong-dong last month.
Foreigner-only casinos are also benefiting. According to the Financial Supervisory Service, Grand Korea Leisure, the casino affiliate of Korea Tourism Organization, saw the amount of money customers exchange into chips surge 66 percent on-year last month to W138.6 billion (US$1=W1,256). Sales jumped 79 percent to W18.2 billion.
VIP tourists who spend more than US$10,000 each are also returning. Recently, around 60 dentists from the Middle East visited Korea on business.
An official at the Jeju Tourism Association said, "To attract more package tourists, we are providing W50,000 or half the cost of a coronavirus test per visitor."
More and more travelers are expected to return as the country is working to bring things back to pre-pandemic levels.
At Incheon International Airport, the hourly limit on flights has been increased from 20 to 40 and the nocturnal flight curfew from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. is being lifted. "Flights have grown only by 100 a week for now, but that's going to get better very soon," an aviation industry insider said.
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