After spending two years being socially distanced in his home country of South Korea, Kim Hoe-jun booked a last-minute flight to Hawaii, where he had enjoyed his honeymoon six years ago, giving in to his craving for overseas travel.
“I bought the ticket just a week ago, but it was rather a no-brainer. It felt like I was making up for those two years not being able to go abroad often as I used to before Covid,” he said, before boarding the plane from Incheon International Airport.
Vaccinated and boosted, Kim and his wife are among South Koreans joining in a rush for “revenge travel” – a term that has been trending on social media as people scramble to book overseas trips that were delayed by coronavirus restrictions.
The boom started after March 21 when South Korea lifted a seven-day mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from most countries.
The restriction had been eased last year but was reimposed in December as the highly infectious Omicron variant spread.
The country has largely scrapped its once-aggressive tracing and containment efforts despite a record Covid-19 wave, joining a growing list of Asia-Pacific countries which have eased quarantine rules, including Singapore, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Koreans now appear more ready to travel. Polls showed people are less worried about the implications of catching the virus, and increasingly see its prevention as out of their hands.
Sales of overseas flight tickets on 11st, an e-commerce unit of SK Telecom, South Korea’s top mobile carrier, rose more than eight-fold compared with a year before between March 11, when the lifting of quarantine was announced, and March 27.
Kim Na-yeon, 27, was excited to return to Hawaii where she used to live. “I couldn’t dare to travel even in Korea because of Covid,” she said. “But now I feel a bit freer with the exemption, so I’ve decided to go meet old friends and do some sightseeing.”
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell