Can South Korea tourism weather rising political tension?

Can South Korea tourism weather rising political tension?

Tension between North Korea and U.S.-backed South Korea has
intensified, and one tour operator says that has affected American travel to
Seoul.

But three other operators say that South Korea bookings remain
strong.

South Korea had been on many tour operator lists of hot
destinations for 2017, including G Adventures. But the destination has cooled
for Americans.

“From a global perspective, our passenger bookings to
South Korea are going strong, with 10% growth versus last year at this time.
Among Americans, however, we are seeing a dip in sales that we hope will be
short lived — especially since the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are
coming up in seven short months. Fall will be a telltale time for us to assess
the potential impact of political tensions on tourism in the Korean peninsula,”
said Ben Perlo, U.S. managing director for G Adventures, which offers a 10-day
tour to South Korea.

Artisans of Leisure reports that its customers are staying
the course.

“Actually, South Korea has been incredibly popular for
us recently, and there has been no decline at all for South Korea tours or Asia
tours in general thus far — we continue to receive steady inquiries and
bookings,” said Ashley Isaacs Ganz, founder and CEO of Artisans of Leisure.

However, North Korea’s test-launching of an intercontinental
ballistic missile on Tuesday could change things.

“Since the situation has escalated quite significantly
over the past few days, it may be too soon to tell, although thus far our
travelers have not changed their plans or their interest in the region,”
Ganz said.

Cox & Kings COO Warren Chang said its Asia bookings are
up 40% this year and that South Korea is popular.

“To date, the current situation with North Korea has
not impacted tourism to South Korea or any other destinations within Asia,”
said Chang. “South Korea’s popularity as a leisure destination is on the
rise, and we do not expect interest to wane anytime soon. We are currently on
pace to send a record number of travelers to the country.”

Catherine Heald, co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands, said
that South Korea is a popular destination not least because Korean Airlines is
a popular airline for travel to Asia. Heald said that only one client has adjusted
plans, having removed a South Korea tour from the itinerary and requesting a
hotel reservation that could be canceled with 48 hours’ notice.

“As it happened, everything was fine and they went to
Korea and had no problems,” said Heald.

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