International air gateways in South Korea have gained life for the first time since Covid-19 pandemic outbreak two years ago as many destinations reopen their borders and self-isolation rule for oversea arrivals has been lifted.
Air ticket sales and group bookings with travel agencies are selling out fast with people recovered from Covid-19 in the country where one out of five has become diagnosed with the virus feel safer to venture abroad.
A group of 22 Korean travelers left for Greece last Friday, the first weekend since South Korea lifted all compulsory quarantine restrictions for inbound travelers in spite of still-ravaging omicron threat. The team are bound for Greece on 8-day tour package at 2 million won ($1,600) per person through Very Good Tour. On Mar. 30, two more groups of travelers are set to depart for Turkey and Egypt, the travel agency said. The travelers, most of whom completed their third shot, already booked to travel in February, when the omicron spread like wildfire. About 20 to 30 percent of the travelers were found to be immunized after complete treatment.
Demand for air tickets and package tour plans in peak summer season has been explosive after self-quarantine for overseas arrivals was lifted. Hana Tour, the country’s largest travel agency, said 3,200 people booked foreign tours in the past 20 days from Mar. 11 when the government announced quarantine-free travel arrangements. Online air ticket seller Interpark Tour saw its international air travel bookings spike by 234 percent in the same period from a year ago. Sales increased evenly across all major destinations with a 239 percent rise for America tours, 248 percent for Europe and 243 percent for Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, South Korea added 187,213 new cases during the 24 hours of Sunday, including 25 cases from overseas, health authorities said on Monday, going down below 200,000 mark for the first time in 25 days as the omicron wave appears to have passed the peak.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the omicron surge of coronavirus cases peaked around last week and has shifted to a downward trend, although the number of serious cases and deaths could spike several weeks after the peak.
By Shin Ik-su, Kim Si-gyun, Moon Ga-young and Minu Kim
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