Airlines wooing tour operators to return to Korea

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Airlines wooing tour operators to return to Korea

The major conglomerates such as Hyundai Motor Group and SK Group have announced plans to combat Korea’s MERS-infected economy, and the two full-service Korean air carriers followed suit Wednesday with campaigns to attract foreign tourists who are still nervous about visiting the country.

Asiana Airlines said it has invited 390 travel agents, local government officials and reporters from 14 Japanese cities that the airline serves to visit Seoul. The three-day trip begins on July 24; the Korea Tourism Organization and Lotte Duty Free are also taking part in the campaign. The three organizations have a tourist program in mind for the group that includes a show by the percussion group Nanta and, naturally, lots of shopping.

On the first day of the visit, the airline will brief the visitors on quarantine inspections at Incheon International Airport to dispel worries about MERS. Last year, about 1 million Japanese visitors changed planes at Incheon; that number was second only to the 1.5 million American transfer passengers there.

Because of the MERS outbreak, the number of Japanese passengers using Asiana Airlines dropped significantly in June compared to June 2014; the capacity utilization rate on Asiana’s Japanese routes fell from 73.1 percent to 60.1 percent.

“It is hard to expect an immediate turnaround, but we are doing this so people in the business can spread the good word about the situation in Korea, which is noticeably recovering from the effects of the disease,” an Asiana spokesman told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “Since we saw some positive impact when we had similar events in the past, we expect this one to bring more tourists to Korea.”

The nation’s leading carrier, Korean Air, also has plans to boost the local tour business. The company said on Tuesday it had invited 300 Chinese travel agents and reporters to participate in a series of tourist excursions that began Wednesday.

Korean Air is working with the Hotel Shilla, Korea Tourism Organization and Seoul Metropolitan Government. It said about 200 people from 12 cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, will visit Seoul attractions from July 13 to July 15. The other 100 people have been arriving in small groups for visits to Seoul and Jeju Island-the latter is one of the most popular tour attractions here for Chinese. One group is already here; the last program will conclude on July 21.

Separately, Korean Air’s executives in China will meet the leaders of Chinese tour agencies, including the China Travel Service in Beijing, on July 15 to encourage them to promote more Korea tour programs.

After finishing the program aimed at Chinese visitors, Korean Air will organize similar tours for Japanese and Southeast Asian travel agencies to reinflate the local tourist industry. The company will commemorate the 20th anniversary of its first commercial flight to Aomori, Japan, at the Lotte Hotel in Sogong-dong, central Seoul on July 20.

“We will try our best as the nation’s leading airline service provider to normalize the country’s tour business,” said a Korean Air spokesman.


BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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