Korean travel agencies are shuttering or temporarily rolling back work hours and payroll as international travels have come to a standstill after the country joined China as a source for the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to local tourism registration data, 36 travel agencies reported business closure this month as of 27th February.
Since the business closure was decided before the gush of spread across the country in mid-February, more are expected to go out of business.
The number of tourism and related businesses registered with the Korean Tourism Association also hit an all-time low this month. The registration number had grown steadily since 2016 when the tourism law was relaxed to support the growth of the industry but the figure will surely drop in the first quarter this year, said an industry expert.
The businesses that applied for the government’s support fund to keep employees hired even after temporary business closing or voluntary leave totaled 411 as of 24th February, with small agencies with 10 or less workers making up 92 percent.
As of afternoon on 26th February, 17 countries have imposed entry bans on Korean nationals and travelers who recently visited Korea, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday. The count goes up to 30 when the countries that have strengthened entry review on visitors from Korea are included.
The countries that are restricting entry of Koreans include Vietnam, Singapore, and Japan – Koreans’ favorite overseas vacation destinations.
Industry experts estimate the overseas travel reservations at Korea’s major tour agencies plunged nearly 90 percent this week compared to the same period last year due to the virus outbreak.
“Keeping travel agencies open is meaningless when countries are banning entry. It is better to close the office,” said a tour agency official.
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Some fear that the recovery of the local tourism businesses would take longer after the epidemic ends, given the severe blow on Korea as a travel destination. The United States raised its travel advisory for South Korea to the highest level, advising its people to avoid all non-essential travel to the county. This would lead to a greater blow on the Korean tourism industry as many countries refer to the U.S. case when setting their travel advisory, said an industry official.
(Source: Pulse News)