Spotlight on South Korea - Edition 2
8 September 2021
It has been three months since your last update. What recent changes are impacting life in South Korea now?
Korea is experiencing its fourth wave of COVID-19 due to the exponential impact of the Delta variant. The number of daily infections has stayed above 1,000 for the last 60 days. That being said, the situation looks more promising as nearly 35 million Koreans or 60 per cent of the population have received at least one dose of vaccines and the country is likely to reach the 70 per cent full vaccination threshold by the end of October.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Korea has taken a ‘living with COVID’ approach so our daily lives haven’t been starkly altered. Although there have been restrictions on the size of group gatherings and shortened operating hours of restaurants, the government never enacted a complete lockdown. Koreans have been able to continue to go to work and restaurants throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, the tourism industry has been negatively impacted and many of my long-standing trade partners and acquaintances lost their businesses or jobs.
With all this in mind, I strive to keep a positive and healthy attitude by being active and working out on a regular basis. Recently, as a representative of Tourism Australia, I was happy to support and participate in a goodwill Walkathon that the Australia Chamber of Korea initiated as part of its on-going CSR efforts.
What is the general sentiment within the Korean tourism industry?
The consumer sentiment in Korea has remained positive as steady economic growth continues along with a growing expectation of returning to normalcy soon. Koreans are avid travellers and have been taking many domestic trips due to the closure of most international borders. However, there is pent-up demand for overseas travel and Koreans are eyeing their next holiday destination. In addition, visiting friends and relatives, Working Holiday Makers and essential business travellers have been eagerly anticipating travel, not to mention recent newlyweds, young explorers and families eager for luxurious destinations.
Despite soaring travel sentiment for an overseas holiday, we have been ensuring Australia maintains its position as a destination of high intention and consideration amongst Korean consumers and travel trade partners. To increase the visibility of Australia and to pique consumers’ travel interests, we carried out a partnership campaign in late June. We developed a tour product reflecting post-COVID trends with one of our Key Distribution Partners (KDP) and showcased it during an-hour long TV home-shopping program that generated extensive media value as well as thousands of future inquiries from the viewers, proving Australia still remains top-of-mind among potential Korean travellers.
We held the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in June to connect Australian industry partners with Korean buyers. Following the two-day online marketplace, we hosted an ATE seminar and networking dinner, inviting ATE buyers, KDPs, airlines and travel trade media. As it was the first in-person event since the pandemic began, the event created a buzz in the industry and received ATE seminar.
What are Tourism Australia’s plans for the year ahead?
As we are all experiencing this unprecedented crisis, it is hard to build a solid roadmap due to no clear signs on when the pandemic will end. However, our ‘Always-on’ strategy will continue to focus on creating demand by increasing the visibility of Australia’s unique destinations and experiences to keep consumers’ interests enhanced. We will continue to carry out partnership and media integrated programs to invigorate Australia’s image and create new demands by developing tour products that are more appealing to high value travellers through various media channels.
Through the Aussie Specialist Program, we are thrilled to unfold Australia’s unique content and new training modules such as sustainable travel and Indigenous programs to trade partners. For the last 18 months, we have hosted more than 35 webinars and trained over 5,400 trade partners. We will continue to train and engage with our trade partners online and hopefully face-to-face this year so they will be ready as soon as Australia’s borders open.
Though we are a small team, we maintain strong relationships with our South Korean trade partners and keen to be the bridge to connect all of our industry partners throughout Australia with them, so feel free to reach out to us so we can extend our support to grow the market together.
And finally, please share your top three reasons why you believe the Australian industry should stay in touch with the Korean market this year?
In 2019, 280,497 Koreans visited Australia, making us the tenth largest market in terms of numbers and the eighth largest market in terms of expenditure for Australia’s inbound tourism. There will be significant potential to increase Australia’s share in the post-pandemic era.
The recent report from Tourism Australia’s Consumer Demand Project indicates that Koreans’ consideration and intention to travel to Australia has increased due to a well-established image around safety. New trends show that Koreans are willing to spend more money for quality tour products and prefer natural environment where they can enjoy wildlife, outdoor activities and quiet beaches. So, we have opportunities to showcase more regions and develop an array of high-end tour products by opening up the possibilities with Korean partners and all that Australia has to offer.
Lastly, we see that the future distribution landscape is changing rapidly. The influence of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and online platforms is increasing, and the pandemic will expedite these trends. For instance, many traditional travel agencies that Australia industry partners collaborated with may change while more and more new players emerge. Consumers tend to purchase a-la-carte travel products such as flights, accommodation and tours on OTA or travel platforms. With this evolving landscape, it is crucial to keep in touch with each other to adapt to swift changes to connect with the right partners in a post-COVID environment.