Airports eye travel rebound induced by K-culture boom next year

Piggybacking on the global popularity of K-pop and K-dramas, Korea Airports Corporation said it is going all out to attract more international travelers.

Byun Hye-jin

Byun Hye-jin

The Korea Herald


Korea Airports Corporation CEO Yoon Hyeong-jung speaks during a press conference at the company meeting room in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province on Thursday. (Korea Airports Corporation)

December 16, 2022

SEOUL – Piggybacking on the global popularity of Korean culture led by K-pop and K-dramas, Korea Airports Corporation said Thursday it is going all out to attract more international travelers next year.

“Welcoming 2023 and 2024 as the Visit Korea Year, we plan to bring in as much as 8.5 million inbound travelers, 40 percent of the pre-pandemic level, by combining K-culture and tourism,” Korea Airports Corporation CEO Yoon Hyeong-jung said during a press conference at the company headquarters in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province.

Visit Korea Year is the government’s tourism promotion scheme to attract 30 million international travelers and generate tourism related expenditure of $30 billion by 2027.

Of the 14 airports operated by KAC, seven international airports including Gimpo, Gimhae, Jeju, Daegu and Chungju will be at the forefront of creating new flight routes and liaise tourism packages and K-pop concerts, Yoon said.

In particular, Gimhae International Airport located in South Gyeongsang Province will step up to expand its routes to the western region of the US and Europe. KAC is seeking to provide incentives such as cutting airport charges and landing fees for long-haul airlines.

In a move to bring back deep-pocketed Chinese tourists, who make up 40-45 percent of the its revenue, the company plans to visit Beijing Capital International Airport and other airports to as part of its marketing strategies.

“At the same time, we will target emerging markets like Indonesia, where more than half of the population is in their 20s and 30s, and are active consumers of Hallyu content. Daegu International Airport can be the key hub for inbound tourists from Indonesia, once we create direct flights from Jakarta,” said Yoon.

KAC is also looking to enter global Urban Air Mobility business. In partnership with Daewoo E&C, Samsung C&T, Posco E&C and Hanwha, it will take part in building airspace control system and facilities for UAM Vertiports overseas. Vertiports refers to airports for aircrafts which land and take off vertically.

Improving passenger convenience through innovative services is another key goal for the company. KAC is currently providing “One ID Biopass” service where a passenger can check in with pre-registered palm patterns and blood circulation information in their hands instead of turning in ID cards. By 2024, passengers can buy items in airport stores using the bio-information of their hands.

The company is also planning to expand its artificial intelligence-powered X-ray systems in security checkpoints, which are more fast and accurate in picking out banned items than security staff. Gimpo International Airport is currently adopting the system.

This year, KAC’s inbound and outbound passengers are expected to surge 34-fold to 1.56 million from a year earlier. By 2023, the figure is expected to show an uptick to 8.54 million.

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