June 09, 2022 11:23
Japan is permitting tour groups to enter again from Friday, and bookings here have already gone through the roof amid pent-up demand from the coronavirus pandemic.
Korea's biggest travel operator Hana Tour said Wednesday that bookings for package tours to Japan from May 30 to June 5 surged 284 percent compared to the previous week and 887 percent compared to two weeks prior.
The proportion of Japan bookings out of total reservations also increased from a mere 2.1 percent to 24.3 percent.
The most popular destination is Osaka, the gateway to picturesque Kyoto, with 31.4 percent, followed by mountainous Hokkaido with 31.2 percent, Fukuoka with 17.5 percent and Tokyo 16.3 percent.
A Hana Tour staffer said, "More than 1,000 people made bookings on a single day last week. We expect more people to sign up and are coming up with new products like small-group tours and scheduling chartered flights."
At Yellow Balloon Tour, package tour bookings to Japan increased seven times in May compared to the previous month, while bookings to other overseas destinations rose around 2.5 times.
Very Good Tour marketed a three-day package tour to Osaka and Kobe last month as a special offer for W490,000 to W520,000, and all 1,365 seats were sold out in just two hours (US$1=W1,257). Since then the agency has been offering it at normal prices and some 2,200 more seats have been sold.
Before the pandemic, more than 7 million Koreans visited Japan each year. "There are many Koreans who are ready to travel to Japan as soon as restrictions are lifted," a travel agent said. "Tours to Japan accounted for around 30 percent of all overseas reservations before the pandemic and we expect a visible recovery."
For now, only group tours are allowed and travelers must be escorted by a guide. Japan is expected to open its gates further after elections for the House of Representatives next month.
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