Kristin Edgeworth, 360Edge (centre) with Insook Lee and Jihae Baik, both Korea Tourism Organization Kristin Edgeworth, 360Edge (centre) with Insook Lee and Jihae Baik, both Korea Tourism Organization

New, emerging Korea: Trade event coincides with growing confidence

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) sees big potential from the New Zealand market as the country opens up and air connections increase. The destination is also promoting new attractions and the return of various stopover programmes and package tours next year after they had been halted by the Covid pandemic.

At a function in Auckland’s Faro Korean Restaurant on Wednesday night Insook Lee, director of KTO’s Sydney office, noted that the New Zealand trade seemed keen to learn more about the country as it opened up to international tourism again.

The confidence was echoed by attendees at the function, co-hosted by KTO and Korean Air.

Paul Dymond, of Wendy Wu Tours says the company has a sold out tour, which includes some New Zealand guests, in Korea right now. ‘We could have sold it four times and we are nearly sold out for next year. We’ll be trying to get more departures going.’

Darren McGregor, House of Travel St Heliers, says there is growing demand for Asia all round and Korea is benefiting from that. ‘The restriction right now is air capacity.’

Angela Manase, of Manase Travel Studio says the agency has had a number of people transiting through Incheon recently, often with an overnight stopover. ‘We are getting positive reports about how easy the airport is to get through,’ she says.

KTO’s Lee says the office’s New Zealand visit comes at a time when Korean Air is about to ramp up services from Auckland to three times a week in October with further increases slated for December.

‘In 2019, we had 35,000 visitors from New Zealand and the numbers were steadily rising. So we are positioning South Korea as a new and emerging destination for New Zealanders.’

Korea has dropped quarantine and vaccination requirements but there is currently still on-arrival testing, with hopes that it will be removed soon.

New attractions in Seoul include the Cheong Wa Dae (The Blue House), which has previously been a secluded place for the president and presidential staff, and is now open to the public for the first time in 74 years.

Also new is HKR Ground, a hi-tech ‘playground’ focusing on Korean experiences.