South Koreans flock abroad for ‘revenge trip’ as COVID rules ease


SEOUL, March 31 (Reuters) – After spending two years socially distancing in his home country of South Korea, Kim Hoe-jun has booked a last-minute flight to Hawaii, where he spent his moon of honey six years ago, giving in to her urge to travel abroad.

“I bought the ticket just a week ago, but it was kind of a no-brainer. I felt like I was catching up on those two years of not being able to go abroad often like I did before COVID “, he said before boarding. the plane from Incheon International Airport on Friday.

Vaccinated and boosted, Kim and his wife are among South Koreans rushing on a ‘revenge trip’ – a term trending on social media as people scramble to book overseas trips that have been delayed by coronavirus restrictions.

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The boom started after March 21, when South Korea lifted a mandatory seven-day quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers from most countries. The restriction had been eased last year but was reimposed in December as the highly infectious variant of Omicron spread.

The country has largely abandoned its once aggressive tracing and containment efforts despite a record wave of COVID-19, joining a growing list of Asian countries that have relaxed quarantine rules, including Singapore, Japan, Australia and New -Zealand. Read more

Koreans now seem more willing to travel. Polls have shown people are less concerned about the implications of catching the virus and increasingly see its prevention as beyond their control. Read more

Overseas air ticket sales on 11, an e-commerce unit of SK Telecom Co Ltd (017670.KS), South Korea’s top mobile operator, grew more than eight times year-on-year previous between March 11, when the lifting of the quarantine was announced, and March 27, the company announced.

Kim Na-yeon, 27, was thrilled to return to Hawaii where she lived.

“I couldn’t dare to travel even to Korea because of COVID,” she said. “But now I feel a little freer with the exemption, so I decided to go meet old friends and go sightseeing.”

DEMAND EXPLOSION

Airlines and travel agencies have reported an explosion in demand for routes to Hawaii, Saipan and Guam, as well as some destinations in Europe and Southeast Asia where tourists submitting a vaccination certificate or test result negative are exempt from quarantine.

Saipan and Guam, both of which have travel bubble pacts with South Korea, are also offering free COVID testing and paying quarantine fees if a traveler tests positive. Every South Korean national visiting Saipan even receives $100 in “travel dollars” to spend at businesses there.

The tour arm of online retail giant Interpark Corp (035080.KQ) reported a 324% growth in flight bookings for Oceania between March 11 and 22 compared to the same period of 2021, a 268% increase for Southeast Asia and 262% more bookings for Europe.

On Sunday, the company sold a record 5,200 Hawaii tour packages in just 70 minutes. CJ Corp’s home shopping unit (001040.KS) said it received some 2,800 orders for a trip to Spain and Italy in an hour on Sunday, totaling 15 billion won ($12.41 million), days after raking in 9 billion won from its Hawaii package sales. .

“The surge reflects growing customer sentiment that the end of COVID travel restrictions may be imminent after the mandatory quarantine is lifted,” said Lee Jeong-pil, general manager of CJ’s home shopping unit.

Lee Tae-woo, a 36-year-old frequent traveler to Japan, said he changed some money into yen, taking advantage of the currency‘s sharp decline and hoping to jump on the revenge trip bandwagon soon.

Although Japan has not yet allowed tourists to return, it has reduced the quarantine period for arrivals for business and other purposes to three days from seven this month, and signaled a further easing of travel restrictions. travel.

“It’s been a long wait, and I’m ready to go back as soon as they finally reopen, and visit my favorite coffee roastery and enjoy the night view from Shibuya Station,” Lee said, referring to the neighborhood. busy central Tokyo.

($1 = 1,209 won)

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Hyunyoung Yi, Yeni Seo, Minwoo Park and Daewoung Kim; Editing by Karishma Singh

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