Airlines target Japan, others amid China flap

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Airlines target Japan, others amid China flap

Korean airlines are expanding flights and marketing to Japan and Southeast Asian markets to fill the gap created by the decline in Chinese tourists.

Asiana Airlines released a specific set of plans Tuesday under the same initiative. The company said it will upgrade carrier sizes on popular routes to Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Nagoya in Japan and to Southeast Asia, including Taiwan’s Taipei and Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi in Vietnam. The small A321 used on those routes soon will be replaced by the midsize A330, B767and B747.

It will also expand mid- and long-range flights to the United States and Europe, although it hasn’t decided which routes will be increased. Asiana will add a new route between June and October, a direct flight from Incheon to Venice that it ran temporarily in 2014 and 2015.

The number of flights to China during the same period will not only be reduced but also the carriers will be downsized to smaller models.

“We understand that the declining number of Chinese tourists to the country is creating concern in Korea’s tourism industry,” said a company statement. “Our company will keep up efforts to devise ways that could minimize the damage as much as possible.”

Asiana’s low-cost carrier subsidiary Air Seoul designed tour packages in connection with Lotte World Tower to pull in more Japanese tourists. Its observatory Seoul Sky, which is located between the 117th and 123th floors, opened to the public on Monday.

“We heard that interest in Lotte World Tower was high in Japan, with its observatory Seoul Sky known as the third-highest in the world,” said the company. “Air Seoul has destinations in Japan that only we have direct routes to, so we thought there would be demand we can create in relation with the tower.” Air Seoul travels to seven destinations in Japan including Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, all of which the company solely operates direct flights among domestic peers.

Air Seoul partnered with tour agencies in Japan so that those coming to Korea through such products can enter the country on their carriers. Air Seoul customers who board on the Hiroshima-Incheon flight can choose to stay at Lotte Hotels in Seoul for a reduced price. The three-day package for Nagasaki-Incheon offers a Lotte World Tower tour.

Another, LCC Eastar Jet, will increase flights to Japan, Hong Kong and Jeju Island until June. The company organized flight schedules with a particular aim of attracting domestic tourists who plan to travel the first week of May, which is an unconventional vacation week this year, thanks to two national holidays and the presidential election. The main destinations to expand flights are Incheon-Tokyo, Osaka and Hong Kong.

Tourism from China in March shrank 39 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. However, the decrease in foreign tourists overall was 10.9 percent, thanks to Japanese tourists, whose visits increased 20 percent year on year. Tourism from six major Southeast Asian countries increased 11 percent year on year.

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