S. Korean cruise travel to resume after Covid led to temporary suspensions

2023.01.09 10:32:01 | 2023.03.08 13:44:01

[Source : Incheon Port Authority]이미지 확대

[Source : Incheon Port Authority]

Cruise lines are expected to resume calling at Incheon after operations were halted for more than three years as easing Covid measures have led to the reopening of borders.

“Europa 2, a 43,000-ton vessel from German shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd AG is scheduled to arrive at the Incheon Port Cruise Terminal on March 19,” according to the Incheon Port Authority on Sunday. The cruise will depart from Hong Kong with 544 passengers and will call at Incheon after stopping at Okinawa, Nagasaki and Busan.

It is the first time in 3 years and 5 months since October 2019 that a cruise ship has entered Incheon Port. More than 90 cruise ships used to call at the port every year as South Korean cruise travel started to boom with Incheon hosting the Asian Games in 2014. However, the number of port calls dropped amid the country’s conflict with China and port entry was completely blocked from 2020 due to the pandemic.

South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries lifted the ban on Oct. 24 last year and cruise lines resumed operations. Starting March, a total of 12 cruise ships, with about 18,100 passengers, are slated to enter Incheon Port this year.

Incheon Port will serve as home port for the four cruise ships that call at Incheon Port from May to October. The Incheon Port Authority sees that more cruise ships will visit Incheon on demand from China once the country’s current rise in Covid cases subsides.

The Incheon Port Authority will promote the port to a number of cruise operators and plans to attract 20 cruise ships and 30,000 passengers this year.

A source from the authority said, “We are inspecting the cruise terminal facilities and talking to customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) agencies ahead of the first port arrival in March. We are also looking to run free buses and set up duty-free pick-up points.”

Cheongju International Airport is also expected to see an increase in passengers as international flights resume. Since it opened in 1997, it has first attracted 3 million passengers last year. T’way Air Co. will use a 189-seat aircraft for the flight from Cheongju to Da Nang in Vietnam from March 11 to 25, according to North Chungcheong Province. In addition, Aero K Airlines Co. is also preparing to launch flights to Osaka, Japan in April.

Chartered flights to Da Nang and Hai Phong were launched last Thursday and services to Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar are planned from Jan. 20.

When international flights were halted in February 2020, Cheongju International Airport saw a sharp decline in passengers to 1.92 million in 2020 from 2.51 million in 2019. But domestic passengers increased and rebounded to 2.62 million in 2021.

By Jin Chang-il, Ji Hong-goo and Choi Jieun

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