Airlines urge govt. to expand travel bubble to individual tourists



South Korean airlines called on the government Tuesday to implement a travel bubble as early as possible and to expand it to individual overseas tourists.

The request was made at a meeting between Vice Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kim Jeong-base and tourism industry people, which was organized by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A travel bubble refers to a quarantine-free travel partnership between two or more cities or countries with similar levels of COVID-19 cases.

South Korea is moving to sign special travel partnerships with countries, initially with Singapore and Taiwan, to allow group tours for fully vaccinated people.

“Should quarantine safety measures be ensured, the government should apply the travel bubble to business and individual tours,” Kim Kwang-ok, vice president of the Korea Civil Aviation Association, said at the meeting.

As of 2019, 85 percent of foreign tourists to South Korea were individuals, with the corresponding figure for outbound travelers coming to 70 percent, he said.

Noting the end of a long tunnel is gradually in sight, Vice Minister Kim said Seoul is discussing travel bubble arrangements with several countries and will seek new tourism policies in line with a new pandemic-induced environment.

At the meeting, experts said the situation is hardly improving for the local tourism industry even after the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

“Despite eased entry restrictions across the world, it is still difficult to see signs of a recovery in the airline industry due to vaccination gaps among countries and the appearance of variants,” said Kim Hyun-joo, a senior researcher at the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute.

Tourism experts also urged the government to expand more policy support for the industry as part of efforts to help tide over hardships caused by the outbreak of COVID-19. (Yonhap)

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