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Korea aims to restart international tourism through promoting safety protocols

Date Jun 09, 2021

‐ Discussions on travel bubbles are in progress

with low COVID‐19 risk countries –



The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (Minister Hwang Hee, MCST) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (Minister Noh Hyeong‐wook, MOLIT) is to implement a travel bubble initiative that allows guided group tours with countries successful in containing the COVID‐19. This initiative is expected to trigger the resumption of international tourist flows in the transition period before forming herd immunity in connection with the rising vaccination rate in Korea.

Restoring international travel mobility for group tours through quarantine exemption between countries successful in containing the COVID‐19

The travel bubble is to resume international travel for general travel purposes by exempting quarantine for travelers between countries that have secured mutual trust on their capacity to prevent and control the COVID‐19. This can be seen as the first step towards the recovery of the international tourism market, since it is also expected to resolve the inconveniences and anxiety that the people feel, as well as the hardships that the tourism and aviation industry is experiencing due to the prolonged restriction on overseas travel.

Even after coming to an agreement on travel bubbles with partner countries, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) plans to review the COVID‐19 situation and conduct close consultations with the health authorities before implementing the travel bubble.

Only groups of vaccinated persons are to be permitted at the early stage

For thorough management of the prevention and control of the pandemic, only those tourists who have completed their COVID‐19 vaccinations will be allowed to be included in the guided group tours in the early stages of implementation. Furthermore, the number of international flights and the number of group tours permitted for entry into borders will be limited to a certain amount based on mutual agreements with trave buuble partner countries. In Addition, for a systematic and reliable operation in line with quarantine management, only tour packages approved as a “Safe Inbound Tourism Product” is to be promoted and operated.

In order to receive approval, travel agencies should be registered as a tourism business under the Tourism Promotion Act, should not have received any administrative dispositions for two years prior to the application announcement, and must strictly follow the safety protocols to prevent and control the COVID‐19. After receiving approval, each travel agency must assign a safety manager and submit management plans for safety. The safety manager will need to provide information on the safety guidelines to tourists, assure their compliance to the safety guidelines, and provide status updates of each tourists by regularly checking their body temperature and any possible symptoms. If an travel agency fails to follow these protocols, the approval may be immediately withdrawn.

Discussions on travel bubbles are in place with countries including Singapore

To ease the pent up travel demand and support the recovery of the international tourism and aviation market, the the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) have been seeking ways to implement travel bubbles with countries/regions such as Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Guam, and Saipan and plans to elevate the discussion to reach agreement soon.

By conducting close consultation with relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, it is expected that the travel bubble initiative will act as a small step forward, although limited, in recovering international exchange on the premise of thorough quarantine management during the transition period of forming herd immunity.

The policy managers of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) commented, “This travel bubble initiative is a result of the joint efforts between the public and private sectors. We hope the the implementation of a safe and secure travel bubble initiative will serve as an opportunity to facilitate the recovery of Korea’s tourism and aviation industries post COVID‐19.”