South Korea-Vietnam flights canceled to halt coronavirus spread

By Nguyen Nam, Nguyen Dong, Xuan Ngoc   February 24, 2020 | 08:18 pm GMT+7
South Korea-Vietnam flights canceled to halt coronavirus spread
South Korean tourists in Nha Trang Town, Khanh Hoa Province. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Ngoc.

Some airlines have temporarily suspended flights between South Korea and Vietnam until March while travel companies canceled tours to the former amid the fast-spreading Covid-19 epidemic.

Vietnam Airlines announced cancelation of flights to and from Incheon International Airport in Seoul, capital of South Korea and Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi.

"We are still following the direction of Vietnamese authorities on disease control to adjust flight schedules," the airline stated. Each day, the national flag carrier operates two round-trips between Hanoi and Seoul.

Bamboo Airways suspended its two routes from coastal city Da Nang and resort town Nha Trang in central Vietnam to South Korea’s Incheon International Airport from February 26, the airline stated Monday.

Korea National Administration of Tourism (KTO) in Vietnam said Korean Air, the largest airline in South Korea suspended its six daily flights on the Incheon - Noi Bai route from February 25 to March 23.

Budget airline Air Seoul also announced suspension of its Hanoi-Seoul route from March 1-28.

Previously, Asiana Airlines, the second largest air carrier in South Korea, canceled its two daily flights on the Hanoi-Seoul route from February 18 to March 9.

Low-cost carrier T'Way Air suspended all flights to and from Hanoi and South Korea from now until March 28. The airline currently operates 12 flights a day, departing from Hanoi, Da Nang, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City, to Seoul, Busan and Daegu.

The Ministry of Transport stated most airlines had halted flights between Vietnam and Daegu, the novel coronavirus epicenter in South Korea, with only VietJet still operating some contract flights.

South Korea raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level on Sunday as the number of confirmed infection cases continued to rise. As of Monday, South Korea had reported over 800 infections and eight deaths while Vietnam has so far recorded 16, of whom 15 have recovered.

Tran Phuong Linh, representative of travel company BenThanhTourist, said all tours departing for South Korea in March were canceled while 50 percent of tours to Japan, scheduled at the same time, were also suspended.

A representative of Hana Tour, which specializes in serving South Koreans, said the number of visitors from Vietnam to South Korea and vice versa plummeted and that, since February, the company had not booked any new tours.

South Korea is the second largest feeder market of Vietnam's tourism after China, with around 4.2 million visitors arriving in the country in 2019, up 23.1 percent from a year ago.

Facing the outbreak in South Korea, many businesses are worried the number of tourists from this market would decline sharply. Da Nang and Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province are the most popular destinations among South Koreans visiting Vietnam. However, in recent days, the number of Koreans here has shown signs of sharp decline due to the threatening epidemic.

Cao Chi Dung, chairman of Da Nang Tourism Association, said: "Travel companies are waiting for official information. The number of tourists had started to decrease by 20-30 percent before South Korea raised its alert to the highest level."

Tourism businesses in Da Nang are working with South Korean partners to monitor the situation, he said.

In Khanh Hoa, on February 23, Cam Ranh International Airport welcomed 11 flights from South Korea, including 10 flights departing from Incheon Airport and one from Busan. There are currently no flights from epicenter Daegu.

Le Tan Phung, deputy director of the Khanh Hoa Department of Health, said he asked relevant agencies to closely monitor the health of Korean tourists upon arrival at the airport.

In 2019, Khanh Hoa welcomed over 300,000 South Korean visitors, an increase of 266 percent compared to 2018. In January 2020, the province welcomed 50,100 South Koreans, an increase of 327 year-on-year.

Starting Monday, the Ministry of Health demands all tourists from South Korea to complete health declarations as the country has become the second largest to be affected by the coronavirus after China.

The global death toll has reached 2,620 and infections topped over 79,000, mainly in China.

 
 
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