South Korea is pushing to allow overseas group tours of fully vaccinated citizens to nations with stable virus response measures as early as next month amid a nationwide vaccination campaign, the transport ministry said Wednesday.
The plan comes as the country's inoculation rate reached 16.5 percent as of Tuesday. Also, the plan is part of efforts to revive the air travel and tourism industries hit by the pandemic and the number of people hoping for the resumption of overseas tours was growing.
The transport and culture ministries said they are seeking to sign a travel bubble agreement with countries, initially with Singapore and Taiwan, to allow group tours for fully vaccinated people.
The government has been in talks with Singapore and Taiwan to sign such an agreement and will contact other countries like Thailand, Guam and Saipan for the exclusive travel partnership that have been relatively successful in containing and combating the pandemic within their respective borders, according to the transport ministry.
Once two countries sign the agreement, they open up borders and their people can travel freely within the zone without undergoing on-arrival, two-week quarantine measures.
On Tuesday, Jeju Air Co., the country's leading budget carrier, resumed flights to Saipan in a preemptive measure to absorb post-coronavirus travel demand.
Jeju Air expects most of the initial passengers to be businessmen, Koreans residing overseas and their family members. But it also projects pent-up demand for travel to Saipan will rise depending on the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations.
U.S. territories like Guam and Saipan currently allow exemptions from a two-week quarantine for incoming passengers who have received Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines.
AstraZeneca vaccine recipients and unvaccinated people are required to take a coronavirus test at the territories' airports and undergo a two-week quarantine at local facilities. (Yonhap)