Korea tour operators are busy toting up last minute hotel prices
and airfares for the deluge of 2006 catalogs that will be flooding
retailers’ mailboxes some time in December. Agents should find gold
in these pages. Korea travel is expected to continue to be strong
Dianora Ginn, promotion director for the Korea Tourist
Organization (KTO) in Los Angeles, reports that U.S. visitors to
Korea rose 21.2 percent in 2004. And based upon the latest
available count January-August 2005 the totals for the entire year
While many Koreans in the United States are drawn to the country
in search of roots or for family visits, it was actually the
mainstream American market that spiked last year, says Ginn. An
already growing interest in Korea received a big boost from the
Broadway show “Nanta,” where a high-energy percussion group from
Seoul made news with a music and pantomime comedy about four zany
chefs in a restaurant kitchen. Korean-language cable television has
also been doing its part by stirring up interest in the “Korean
Wave” (hallyu), the burgeoning Korean film and music scene and
other facets of Korea’s new pop culture.
Most of the two-dozen Western-based wholesalers say they expect
their packages to be similar to last year’s. Custom FIT tours, as
usual, will outnumber groups. Packages again will concentrate on
Korea’s best known areas: Seoul for shopping and sightseeing; Jeju
Island for beaches and golf; Gyeongju, the UNESCO World Cultural
Heritage Site; Buson, the major port city; and Gangwondo province,
home to Mt. Seoraksan National Park. Price increases of up to 10
percent are widely predicted.
A few tours for the early months of next year do appear in this
year’s catalogs. Though they are still planning for next year, some
wholesalers were able to give a sample of what to expect.
William Karz of SITA World Travel says his company will feature
Korea at a Glance, five days/four nights at $1,440, double
occupancy; and Best of Korea, seven days/six nights, $2,490, double
To deal with possible price increases in this already costly
Asian market, some operators such as Mark Sood of Touch of Class
will be concentrating on affordable itineraries. Sood has
seven-night/eight-day and 11-night/12-day packages to three popular
destinations: Seoul, Buson and Gyeongju. Clients can choose from
three hotel categories from standard to deluxe but dates and rates
are not yet available.
Peter Kim, of Four Seasons Tours & Travel, does custom FIT
tours and groups for 10 or more. Besides his choice of general
interest trips, he offers taekwondo and martial arts tours which
feature visits to martial arts training camps, especially popular
with younger travelers. He also has special interest Korean Wave
and Korean War Veterans trips.
Taekwondo is also a draw for Infotour, whose Jason Youn makes
the rounds of American tournaments to churn up interest in his
overseas trips. He says his biggest season for Taekwondo travel is
summer, when the youth market is on school vacation and free to go.
While the tours don’t make the big tournament dates, they do stop
at training camps as well as taekwondo headquarters in Seoul.
Robert Park of New Global Travel Service will be repeating his
Jeju, Buson, Gyeongju, Seoraksan six-night/seven-day golf tour in
April, May, September and October in 2006. Exact dates will be
announced soon. Price, including air and all golf fees, will come
to about $2,600. Since his clients are mainly from the Korean
community, many are already acquainted with Seoul, so touring there
is not included but can be added.
Stopovers to other Asian countries, especially China and Japan,
are popular options for Korea tourists. Seoul-Tokyo and
Seoul-Beijing flying time is two hours; Seoul-Taipei, two hours and
45 minutes. Longer flights to Bangkok are five hours and 45 minutes
or Singapore, six hours and 40 minutes.
Conversely, China and Japan specialists say that a Seoul
stopover is extremely popular with their customers, who go there to
sample the cuisine, visit the fascinating Gyeongbok Palace and
shop. This top-flight Asian shopping destination is known for its
wide selection from high-end to bargain knock-offs at indoor,
outdoor and underground markets and big department stores.
Duty-free shops are common as well.
Hard to find, but growing in popularity with adventurous
travelers willing to accept “best available” accommodations, is a
three-day North Korea visit. It’s offered as an option on Asian
Pacific Adventures’ otherwise upscale l7-day group tour, Taste of
Korea. This will go twice in 2006, spring and autumn. Price and
exact dates have not been set yet.
Crossing the border is legal and safe, according to the
company’s owner Hima Singh, who cannot say enough about the exotic
beauty of the north’s Geumgangsan Diamond Mountain, the hot
springs, the villages, the ancient temples, the circuses and views
of rural life. (Cities are still off limits in North Korea and
visitors should not expect to have much meaningful contact with the
locals.) Singh will also offer a 10-day Taste of Korea at $3,295,
double occupancy. Dates for 2006 are to be announced.
When booking Korea, refer your clients to www.tour2korea.com.
Besides a lot of useful information, there’s a Korean language
course for travelers, new this year. The simple lessons, backed by
audio for pronunciation, teach common words and phrases from
beginning to more advanced. Even the most language-challenged
clients will be saying hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me and
you’re welcome in no time, and may even be able to order their own
glass of beer.
Korea Tourism Organization
Asian Pacific Adventures
6065 Calvin Ave.,
Tarzana, CA 91356
Info Tour Inc.
3345 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
New Global Travel Service
3054 W. 8th St. #107
Los Angeles, CA
SITA World Travel
16250 Ventura Blvd., Suite 300
Encino, CA 91436
350 5th Ave., #1421
New York, NY 10118
3050 Post Oak Blvd. #1320
Houston, TX 77056
401 N. Michigan Ave. #865
Chicago, IL 60611
Touch of Class
21820 Burbank Blvd. #225
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Four Seasons Tours & Travel
3435 Wilshire Blvd. #143
Los Angeles, CA 90010
14795 Jeffrey Rd. #106
Irvine, CA 92618
9295 Magnolia Ave. #206
Riverside, CA 92503
112-1 Inuidong Jonglogu
Seoul, Korea 110-410