South Koreans are rushing for “revenge travel” – a term that has been popular on social media as people seek to schedule abroad trips that have been delayed due to coronavirus restrictions – after spending two years being socially isolated.
After South Korea eliminated a seven-day obligatory quarantine for properly vaccinated travellers travelling from most countries on March 21, the surge began. Last year, the limitation was lifted, but it was reinstated in December as the highly contagious Omicron variety spread.
Despite a record COVID-19 outbreak, the country has largely abandoned its once-aggressive tracking and containment efforts, joining a growing list of Asian countries that have relaxed quarantine restrictions, including Singapore, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Koreans appear to be more willing to travel currently. People are less concerned about the consequences of contracting the virus, according to polls, and increasingly believe that prevention is beyond their control.
Between March 11, when the removal of the quarantine was announced, and March 27, sales of international flight tickets on 11st, an e-commerce unit of SK Telecom Co Ltd, South Korea’s main mobile carrier, increased by more than eightfold over the previous year, according to the firm.
Kim Na-yeon, 27, was overjoyed to be returning to Hawaii, where she had previously resided.
“I couldn’t dare to travel even in Korea because of COVID,” she said. “But now I feel a bit freer with the exemption, so I’ve decided to go meet old friends and do some sightseeing.”
Airlines and travel firms have reported record demand for flights to Hawaii, Saipan, and Guam, as well as other European and Southeast Asian destinations where visitors who have a vaccination certificate or a negative test result are excluded from quarantine.
Both Saipan and Guam, which have travel bubble agreements with South Korea, provide free COVID testing and cover quarantine costs if a traveller tests positive. Each South Korean national who visits Saipan is given $100 in “travel money” to spend at local businesses.
Interpark Corp’s tour division reported a 324 per cent rise in airline bookings for Oceania between March 11 and 22 compared to the same period in 2021, a 268 per cent increase for Southeast Asia, and a 262 per cent increase for Europe.
In just 70 minutes on Sunday, the business sold a record 5,200 Hawaii vacation packages. CJ Corp’s home shopping unit said it got 2,800 requests for a trip to Spain and Italy in one hour on Sunday, totaling 15 billion won ($12.41 million), just days after selling a Hawaii package for 9 billion won.
“The surge reflects growing customer sentiment that an end of COVID travel curbs might be in the offing after the mandatory quarantine was lifted,” said Lee Jeong-pil, general manager of CJ’s home shopping unit.
Lee Tae-woo, a 36-year-old frequent visitor to Japan, said he has converted some money into yen to take advantage of the currency’s dramatic depreciation and hopes to join the vengeance travel bandwagon shortly.
Though vacationers have not been allowed back in, Japan has cut the quarantine time for business and other visitors to three days from seven days earlier this month, signalling further loosening of travel restrictions.
“It’s been a long wait, and I’m ready to go back as soon as they finally open up again, and visit my favourite coffee roastery and enjoy the night view from Shibuya station,” Lee said, referring to Tokyo’s bustling central district.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)