Travel agency meeting is gloomy
The travel industry thinks it will take a couple more years to recover from Covid-19.
At a meeting hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in central Seoul on Tuesday, Woo Kee-hong, Korean Air Lines President, said, “Hopes to return to normal are growing thanks to the rising vaccination rate worldwide, but that growth is not yet reflected in the travel industry.”
He added, “It is time for private and public [organizations] to cooperate to prepare for the post Covid-19 era, along with active government support for a travel industry that does not have much strength left to survive.”
Woo, who is also Tourism Industry Committee Chairman for the KCCI, was joined at the meeting by Hana Tour CEO Kim Jin-kook, Kim Jung-bae, the second vice minister at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, as well as a group of tourism experts.
Their list of requests to the government included extending a subsidy that helps travel companies keep employees; exempting more incoming visitors from quarantines; and enabling individual travelers to travel through travel bubble programs, deals with countries that allow quarantine-free leisure travel in both directions.
Currently, the government is only talking to other countries about travel bubble programs for group tours.
Around 85 percent of inbound travelers and 70 percent of outbound travelers traveled individually as of 2019, according to Kim Kwang-ok, a spokesperson for the Korea Civil Aviation Association, not on group tours.
“If safety can be assured through measures like an app designed to check one’s movements, travel bubble should be expanded to include business and individual travelers.”
Kim Hyun-joo, a senior researcher at the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute, said that international borders are gradually opening up for travelers, but it’s still “difficult to find signs of a recovery in the airline industry due to differences in vaccination rates among countries and the emergence of virus variants." Kim added that hotel businesses are picking up as vaccinated people travel within countries.
The government is looking for tourism policies that take into account the changing situation, said second vice minister Kim.
Meanwhile, layoffs continue.
Mode Tour, the second largest tour agency in Korea, will start accepting voluntary resignations from all employees starting on Thursday. A spokesperson for the company on Monday said that the company “has reached its limit.”
Shares of Hana Tour, the largest domestic travel agency, dropped almost 20 percent this month, while shares of Korean Air Lines dropped around 10 percent in the same period.
BY JIN MIN-JI [Jjin.firstname.lastname@example.org]