[Tourism Marketing] Unlocking the Secret Key to Success in the Korean Market

The Korean tourism market holds the potential for a significant resurgence. The gloomy period, where the freedom of travel was taken away and restricted movement became the norm, has finally come to an end. A new era of travel has emerged.

On January 20, 2020, Korea reported its first case of COVID-19. Now, after three years and four months, the government has downgraded the COVID-19 crisis level from “serious” to “caution” starting from June 1st of this month. It’s safe to say that we are finally emerging from the grip of the global pandemic.

Since early 2023, Koreans have been eager to explore the world again. Starting from the second half of 2022, major travel destinations began lifting quarantine measures and opening their doors to international tourists. By the beginning of this year, with the exception of a few countries like China, borders were fully open for travel, eliminating any hesitations to embark on new adventures.

From January to April 2023, approximately 6.42 million Koreans traveled abroad, with an average of over 1.65 million individuals embarking on international trips each month. It is projected that by the end of the year, the total number of outbound travelers will surpass 20 million, reaching around 22 million.

Recent data from the Kukmin Card and the Bank of Korea, as of May 15, indicates remarkable growth in travel agency sales. Compared to the previous year, sales have surged by an astounding 409%. Furthermore, airline ticket sales have experienced significant growth, ranging from 1634% to 164% across different regions, brightening the future outlook of the international travel market.

As the Korean overseas travel market continues to flourish, National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) of world-renowned travel destination countries are making their presence felt after a three-year absence. Industry seminars, press conferences, and media events organized by NTOs and airlines are being held at least twice a month.

The interpretation of these movements by NTOs and airlines remains challenging at present. It is uncertain whether they will engage in proactive marketing strategies, similar to the pre-COVID era, or focus on maintaining a certain level of brand awareness in the Korean market.

However, drawing from over 30 years of experience and data, it can be predicted that NTOs and regional tourism boards of major destination countries have ambitious plans to position their regions as premier destinations and are likely to demonstrate proactive efforts.

Korea Travel News envisions the newly revitalized era of travel to unfold in a significantly enhanced form, distinct from the pre-COVID-19 period.

To accomplish this, Korea Travel News is launching the “Secrets of Success in the Korean Market” project. This comprehensive endeavor encompasses market analysis, strategic planning, execution, and result analysis, divided into more than 20 chapters. The project also considers incorporating lecture-style content through platforms such as YouTube or Zoom to facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing among foreign tourism authorities, agencies, airlines, travel agencies, hotels, and other key players within the industry.

Whether domestically or internationally, finding entities with specialized expertise in marketing, particularly destination marketing, is a formidable task. Their contribution is essential for the advancement of the tourism industry and the individual success of companies and organizations.

The Korean travel market has undergone significant transformations over the past three years. Many prominent players prior to the pandemic have faded away. Reports indicate that only a fraction, less than 10%, of the thousands of small and medium-sized travel agencies across the country have managed to maintain their vitality or show potential for recovery.

While the number of outbound travelers continues to rise, the infrastructure required to provide seamless travel experiences has suffered setbacks. The timeline for a full recovery remains uncertain.

Without understanding how the market landscape has evolved and anticipating its future trajectory, it becomes challenging to make informed decisions. As Korea Travel News presents the first installment of “Secrets of Success in the Korean Market,” we emphasize the quote, “Know thyself, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”

5 June 2023  Howard Jungchan Lee/Korea Travel News