[Photo by Yonhap]
The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the travel habits of South Koreans, with more people taking spontaneous trips to camping sites or luxury hotels.
Domestic tourist destinations are booming as the coronavirus brought a halt to international travel. Korea’s No. 1 travel agency Hanatour Service Inc. and the Europe-centric travel site Very Good Tour have both revamped their websites to focus on domestic travel packages.
Accommodation choices have also changed amid the rise of the “untact economy.” Demand for camping sites in Korea surged 73 percent from February to late April versus the same period a year ago, according to the Korea Tourism Organization. Camping bookings in locations such as Yeongwol, Hamyang, Gunsan and Yangyang jumped more than four- or five-fold during the same period.
The traditional peak vacation season of July and August has now been spread out to September, as COVID-19 disrupted the summer break schedules of primary and secondary schools. Major hotels in Jeju Island are already fully booked on weekends through late August, with reservations at some hotels also nearly full until early September.
Travelers are also more willing to splurge at luxury hotels.
Hanwha Resort’s suite rooms, which are double the price of regular rooms, are nearly 90 to 95 percent full until mid-August, compared with the average booking rate of 80 percent for all rooms. Weekend bookings at Signiel, the premium label of Lotte Hotel, in Seoul and Busan have also topped 90 percent. JS Marriott in Dongdaemun Square, Seoul has recently released a one-night package that costs more than $8,000, which includes a stay at the presidential suite room and an all-you-can-eat pass at the hotel restaurants.
More travelers are taking spur-of-the moment trips, unable to plan in advance because of possible changes in the COVID-19 situation.
Glad Mapo, a premium business hotel in Seoul, found that 32 percent of all bookings made through Online Travel Agency in recent months came less than a day before, more than triple the share of last year. Bookings made 15 to 30 days before used to account for about one-fifth of all reservations, but the figure had also dropped to 7 percent, it added.
By Shin Ik-su and Kim Hyo-jin
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]