Korea tour prices dip amid sour Beijing ties

Top News | Phoebe Ng 21 Mar 2017

Holidays in some of the favorite Easter destinations of Hongkongers will be cheaper, thanks to a drop in mainland visitors that has helped slash tour prices.

For instance, the cost of a getaway to South Korea has shrunk by almost a fifth, as mainlanders boycott the country over its hosting of a US missile defense system.

Travel Industry Council data indicate a downtrend for most popular trips, especially luxury destinations. While the overall costs of normal tours have risen by 3 percent, those of upmarket trips have fallen by 19 percent, according to TIC statistics released yesterday.

"This is good news to Hong Kong holidaymakers," said TIC executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung. "Due perhaps to political reasons, mainland travelers seem to be averse to traveling to places like South Korea, Japan or Taiwan."

The cheapest five-day tour to South Korea costs HK$3,299, around 18 percent lower than last year, while a four-day Taipei tour is 7 percent cheaper.

A five-day tour to Honshu in Japan costs HK$7,699 - also down by 7 percent.

One of the exceptions is a fancy five- day trip to Hokkaido, the price of which has risen by a staggering 110 percent, due mainly to a certain travel agency that launched an upscale HK$33,999 package. Even a budget tour to Hokkaido now costs 11 percent more due to high demand for flights.

Tourists yearning for a sun-kissed break in Thailand also need to shell out 32 percent more due to a shortage of seats in budget airlines. Journeys to other Asian destinations cost slightly less. Prices for the cheapest tours to Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia have dropped by 13, 7 and 8 percent, respectively.

Prices for long-haul trips have increased, with the cheapest eight-day trip to Africa costing 30 percent more than last year at HK$16,998. Journeys to Europe also cost 15 percent more.

The deployment in South Korea of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system has angered Beijing.

China has reportedly told its major travel agencies to stop selling tours to South Korea amid the political tension between the two countries, and mainlanders have responded by vowing not to travel to that country.

Mainland visitors to Taiwan fell by 15 percent as of July last year from a year earlier amid its soured ties with Beijing.

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