Travel options abound in Korea even during these troubled times

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Travel options abound in Korea even during these troubled times

Travel destinations in areas of Korea relatively untouched by the coronavirus outbreak are rolling out a wide range of packages for those who still want to get away.

Jeju is one such place, having had no new cases in two weeks. Resorts on the island have reported an increase in reservations from newlywed couples who have been blocked from entering one of the 150 countries waving away travelers from Korea.

The Shilla Jeju is offering its first honeymoon package in seven years. The hotel has decorated some of its spaces for weddings and receptions and will provide professional photo services for the happy couples.

Gangwon is also proving to be a good option for the stir-crazy, as Sokcho, Yangyang County and Goseong County have had no confirmed cases at all.

Sono Hotels & Resorts, the new name of Daemyung Resort, said while booking rates have dropped sharply at most of its branches in other regions, four locations in Gangwon, which many consider as a “virus-free zone,” have reported a sharp increase in reservations. According to the hotel chain, around 80 percent of rooms are occupied during the weekends.

“We are seeing more travelers coming to Gangwon than in other places because people think that Gangwon and the open sea are safe,” said Hwang Young-hoon, manager of Sono Hotels & Resorts.

Some hotels are coming up with services for families who seek “refuge” from a monthlong self-quarantine to avoid the virus.

Kensington Resort Seorak Valley, in Goseong County, released a trip package for families that provides a weeklong stay at their hotel. It includes six nights in a room, six breakfasts and unlimited coffee. Despite the big price tag, of over 1 million won ($800) for five people, the resort said it’s getting a lot of reservations.

“We are seeing a noticeable increase in the number of families wanting to stay for a long period after the coronavirus outbreak,” said Kim Yang-hee, a manager at Kensington Resort. “Families with young kids or old couples are our main customers.”

Some hotels in Seoul are trying to provide more so-called “untact services,” which involve little to no face-to-face contact, for tourists wanting to enjoy the holiday experience but minimize risks.

Le Meridien Seoul, in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, extended checkout by nine hours for some rooms offered to families. While the check-in hour is the same, 10 a.m., families can stay in the room until 4 p.m. the next day.

It also provides private access to its indoor playground for 90 minutes, which is sterilized for 30 minutes after each use. The service is only available to five groups each day.

Five-star hotels are adjusting their menus to include ingredients that are said to boost the immune system. Lotte Hotel World in Songpa District, southern Seoul, is offering ginseng juice, ginseng tea and ginseng traditional rice cakes in the lounge bar.

WE Hotel Jeju provides detox juices and vitamin injections for free, through the end of March, to everyone staying at their hotel.

“Local hotels and resorts have seen a huge drop in the number of foreign customers and are desperate for local demand. Everyone in the accommodations industry seems to be scrambling to develop customized services to attract local tourists,” said Jang Jin-soo, the chief editor of Hotel Avia, a global hotel and resorts magazine.

BY BAEK JONG-HYUN [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]

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