S. Korea health execs on edge as tourist bookings to Jeju Island surge
SEOUL — Health authorities are nervously watching as tourist bookings to Jeju Island over the long weekend surge with loosened social distancing rules.
Starting with Buddha’s Birthday, which falls on Thursday, April 30 this year, and Labor Day on May 1, many Koreans are to enjoy six days of holiday through Children’s Day on May 5.
Daily booking rate of flights between Seoul’s Gimpo and Jeju during this period hovers above 80 percent.
On the first day of the holidays, 93 percent of flight tickets from Gimpo to Jeju Island have been booked already.
The Jeju-Gimpo air fare, which had plummeted to around 20,000 won ($16.20) due to the COVID-19 outbreak, has jumped to over 100,000 won.
Hotel booking rates are also rising.
According to the Jeju Tourism Association, the average daily booking rates during this period are above 90 percent for Jeju Shilla Hotel and Lotte Hotel Jeju, and between 70 and 80 percent for some other hotels on the resort island.
Accommodations at the Jeju Jeolmul Natural Recreation Forest are also fully booked from April 30 through May 5.
The association expects the average daily number of Korean tourists on Jeju Island, which has been around 13,000 on weekdays and 16,000 on weekends since the novel coronavirus outbreak, to surge to 24,000 over the holidays.
Golf clubs on Jeju have been fully booked as it has become difficult to travel overseas to play golf under COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Some golf clubs are waitlisting golfers.
To prevent a spread of the novel coronavirus over the holidays, the Jeju government plans to strengthen quarantine measures at its airport and seaports.
Additional medical personnel and equipment will be in place at the airport to check on people with symptoms, to keep them from going to treatment centers around the island.
Twenty-nine tourist attractions including the Jeju Folklore & Natural History Museum and the Jeju Museum of Art will remain closed.
“Efforts so far (to contain COVID-19) could come to nothing if we let our guard down over the holidays,” a Jeju government official said.
“We must stay vigilant as even a single confirmed patient among the tourists who travel across the entire island could spread the virus and bring uncontrollable damage.”
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