Spring time travel options for those ready to venture outdoors
Spring has sprung and people are heading outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather.
Flowers are beginning to bloom nationwide and many are gearing up to enjoy one of Korea's most colorful seasons. The camping boom which began last year is set to continue as locals look to enjoy nature with little interaction with strangers.
The continuous increase in sales of camping products prove how popular the hobby has become.
According to Emart, sales related to camping gear in January and February jumped 53.6 percent, compared to the same period the previous year. Sales of items related to outdoor cooking jumped by 72.6 percent, an indicator that those enjoying camping holidays are also avoiding restaurants in favor of cooking at their campsites.
At Shinsegae department store, sales of outdoor clothing jumped by 43.5 percent in the first two months of the year compared to last year. Online retailer Gmarket said it saw a 93 percent increase on year in sales of camping chairs from Feb. 25 to March 3 and an 81 percent increase in sales of camping tables over the same period. Sales of tents also surged by 25 percent.
To further boost sales of outdoor essentials, retailers are holding a variety of promotions and sales.
Shinsegae is running a Millet week until March 14, offering products from the outdoor apparel and equipment brand with a discount of up to 70 percent. Emart will sell outdoor brand Stanley’s ice boxes, among other items, as they were completely sold out last year. Its Seongsu branch will have a pop-up store, offering 70 different types of products, and other nine branches including the Gimpo Hangang branch will also host events.
One reason behind the continuous rise in the camping trend is the ease at which people can pack up and go. During a four-day event titled "2021 Camping and Picnic Fair" held at Kintex, Ilsan, from March 3 to March 7, about 72,000 people visited to browse items that might come in handy during their outdoor pursuits.
And it appears that the trend is here to stay. Respondents to a recent survey hosted by booking website Trip.com said there were unlikely to make reservations in advance of traveling, instead favoring last minute decisions to be able to take into account changing travel restrictions.
Travelers now tend to make a reservation for accommodation about 7.3 days before the day they plan on staying, compared to 20.3 days before Korea was hit by the pandemic, according to the platform last week. Some 41 percent of reservations were made either on the day of their stay or one day before.
Those who book hotel vacations are tending to pay a bit more than before the pandemic in order to secure rooms at hotels highly rated by the government. About 68 percent of people making a hotel or resort reservation choose accommodation with more stars, about 14 percent higher than pre-pandemic times.
“It's not just the premium facilities and services, but the expectations that such places will have stricter sanitation procedures are leading many guests to look for such options,” said the website, which is offering special hotel discounts for such impromptu travelers until June. 30.
Some luxury hotels like the newly open Jeju Dream Tower showcased its rooms on home shopping channels to appeal to a wider range of potential travelers. After it had sold almost 10,000 rooms within an hour through a sale on CJ O Shopping last month, it offered an additional 6,000 rooms on March 6. The hotel, opened in December, is about a 10-minute drive from Jeju International Airport.
Busan, another popular city among leisure travelers in Korea, is also preparing to welcome visitors for the spring season.
The Busan Tourism Organization has restarted its City Tour Bus programs to help visitors better navigate the harbor city. It was stopped during the winter with stricter social distancing measures applied throughout the country.
For now, given that many head out to the famous Haeundae Beach and Taejongdae, which offers an ocean view amid a sea of hydrangea, two bus routes that take people to those two destinations are available.
As these routes are circular without a start or end stop, once you buy a ticket for unlimited rides for 24 hours, you can hop on or off freely.
No reservation is necessary to get on these buses, you can just arrive at the bus stop with a City Tour Bus sign and pay when you get on. Tickets costs 15,000 won ($13) for adults. The buses run every day except Mondays and Tuesdays. On weekdays, a bus comes every hour, and on weekends, it arrives every 30 minutes.
Some travel companies are offering special packages to lure those hesitant about taking trips.
Pets Go, an online travel company that has been arranging travel with pets since 2016, will offer pet lovers a chance to fly with their furry friends sitting next to them. This time it joined hands with budget carrier Hi Airlines.
While small-sized pets are normally required to remain in a crate during flights, the agency has leased an entire plane to allow owners and animals to travel side by side on March 19.
Pets must be harnessed during the flight to keep them safe. It marks the first time that an entire plane has been reserved for pet travel in Korea.
The flight will circle Ulleung Island without landing before returning to Gimpo International Airport.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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