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Working to Make Best of MERS Aftermath
Hana Tour
Working to Make Best of MERS Aftermath
  • By matthew
  • August 27, 2015, 09:30
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The Hana Tour Building in Insa-dong, Seoul.
The Hana Tour Building in Insa-dong, Seoul.


The tourism industry took a direct hit from the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Lots of package tours from China and Taiwan were canceled, and travel agencies there are reported to be facing a barrage of phone calls from travelers who booked flights to Korea wondering, whether it is safe to make the trip. A spokesperson at Hana Tour said, “Rumors spread in China that the situation is far worse than the media are reporting, and this has prompted travel agencies there to cancel tour programs to Korea.”

In fact, tour agencies in Korea have taken a direct hit after thousands of Chinese have canceled their trips to Korea over growing fears of the contagious disease.

Despite the government’s announcement on July 28 that the MERS outbreak had come to an end, the domestic tourism market, especially the rate of tourists from China, does not seem to be recovering as quickly as many hoped, which prompted companies in the industry to take concrete actions to fight the slump.

In an effort to allay the concerns of Chinese tourists about MERS, Hana Tour, the biggest tourist company in Korea, joined hands with Asiana Airlines to host a tour event for a Chinese delegation comprised of China’s largest tourist companies and media. Korea Tourism Organization, Incheon International Airport Corporation, and Lotte joined in planning the program for the event, which lasted from Jul. 15 to 19.

[[{"fid":"12542","view_mode":"body_image_right","fields":{"format":"body_image_right","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Mayor Park Won-soon speaks to the Chinese delegation on the tour event hosted by Hana Tour.","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"Mayor Park Won-soon speaks to the Chinese delegation on the tour event hosted by Hana Tour.","height":253,"width":450,"class":"media-element file-body-image-right"},"link_text":null}]]The Chinese delegation consisted of 150 CEOs of China’s best-performing travel agencies, journalists, and 50 of China's most influential bloggers. During the three night and four day stay, they went sightseeing at tourist attractions and look in every nook and corner of Seoul to ensure that there was no more threat from the deadly epidemics. The major events include touring of the streets of Myeongdong, the most popular tourist district in Seoul, a buffet served on a cruise ship, and a visit to an aquarium at Jamsil's Lotte World. A meeting with Park Won-soon, the mayor of Seoul, was also included in the program.

On the more proactive side, Hana Tour is planning to utilize the popularity of Korean entertainment content among Chinese tourists in boosting both the company’s duty-free and tourist businesses. For this, Hana Tour signed an MOU with IHQ CUBE Entertainment, an entertainment management company based in Korea. The company’s current roster of entertainers includes Rain, Huh Gak, A Pink, and Hyuna.

With the combined resources deriving from the tourism, duty-free, and entertainment businesses at hand, Hana Tour is planning to provide cultural and entertainment products at the company’s duty-free stores in Insa-dong. The company considers that this will serve to make the shopping experience more unique and fun.

In July, the Hana Tour-led consortium won a license to run a duty-free store in Seoul. Hana Tour is going to turn its headquarters in Insa-dong into a duty-free outlet and open it in Jan. next year. Nestled near big tourist attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace, the duty-free outlet in Insa-dong is expected to play a crucial role in shaping the shopping and tourist trends in the area.