Incheon Airport passenger traffic to recover during Chuseok holiday

Tourism during South Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday of Chuseok is expected to rebound to pre-COVID-19 levels, industry sources said Sunday.

According to Incheon Airport, the number of passengers who will be using the country's main gateway between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3 is expected to reach 1.2 million, an average of about 170,000 each day.

The number has also recovered to 96.6 percent of the corresponding figure in 2019. The figure is also up by 186.7 percent compared to the previous year’s figure, it added.

The country's leading travel agency Hana Tour said that the number of people who booked tickets for flights that leave here increased by 43 percent compared to 2019. In comparison with 2022, when travel restrictions and concerns over COVID-19 still existed, it was an increase of 1,535 percent, the agency added.

The latest increase came as the government last month decided to designate Oct. 2 as a one-off temporary holiday, which bridged the three-day Chuseok holiday and the country’s National Foundation Day on Oct. 3.

Some people have taken a few more days off to extend the Chuseok holiday to 12 days for their overseas trip. “I decided to take three more days, between Oct. 4-6, for my weeklong trip to Japan,” a 34-year-old man surnamed Shin living in Gyeonggi Province told The Korea Herald.

By destination, more than a majority of travelers have planned their trips to countries in Southeast Asia and Japan, according to local travel agencies.

Hana Tour reported that around 44.9 percent of travelers who booked tickets through the company would be visiting countries in Southeast Asia, followed by 27.8 percent to Japan.

“Air travel to Japan in particular increased this year compared to 2019, which was when calls for a boycott of Japanese goods escalated,” an industry source said.

Local travel agencies added that travelers to Southeast Asia have increased significantly, as many have chosen to go to popular family vacation resorts in the region.

Meanwhile, many locals opted to just visit their families or stay home instead of traveling, largely due to high airline ticket prices.

“I postponed my trip to Japan to November after seeing airline ticket prices during the Chuseok holiday,” said a 40-year-old man surnamed Chung who lives in Seoul.

A round-trip ticket from Incheon Airport to Narita International Airport over the six-day holiday, for instance, costs over 1 million won ($748) as of Sunday, two or three times more expensive than usual.

According to a survey conducted by Lotte Members, Lotte Group's membership provider, around 46 percent of some 4,000 respondents said they would visit their families, and 30 percent said they would stay home. The proportion of respondents who said they planned to travel remained at some 22 percent.

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