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Travel news roundup
Japan Offers 90-Day Free Visa for S. Koreans
Mt. Fuji in Japan

Japan to allow short stays of S. Koreans without visas

The Japanese government announced on Feb. 6, 2006 that visitors from South Korea planning to stay up to 90 days in Japan will be exempted from visas from March 1, extending a provisional waiver of visa requirements scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

The South Korean government has already introduced the same measure for Japanese nationals. The move is expected to boost the number of tourists and other visitors from South Korea and help realize the government-held aim to achieve an annual exchange of 5 million people between the two countries.

The Japanese government apparently hopes to turn this into a stepping stone to ease the tension between the two countries that has worsened since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi repeatedly visited the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

Earlier, the government introduced a temporary measure waiving visas for South Koreans staying in Japan up to 90 days from March through the end of September last year to coincide with the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi Prefecture. It then extended the measure for another five months.

The decision to permanently waive the visas came after the government found no indication of an increase in the number of crimes committed by South Korean nationals during the provisional period.

The number of South Koreans visiting Japan has been on the rise with the growth of the South Korean economy and following the two countries co-hosting of the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Korean pilgrimage mainstay of Korean tourists to Israel in 2005

Pilgrimage is leading the way for Korean tourist traffic to Israel. Last year, for instance, more than 26,000 Koreans visited Israel, the second largest yearly figure after 28,527 in 1996, a year before IMF bailed out South Korea in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, according to official statistics released by Israel Government Tourism Organization (IGTO)

The figure for the year 2005 represents an increase of 33 percent from 19,602 registered in 2004, Park Hon-kyun, Korea representative of Israeli tourism office in Seoul told the Korea Travel Times.

Korean tourist traffic to Israel saw major setbacks due to international crises such as the outbreak of the Gulf War and the escalation of terrorism in the Middle East against the backdrop of tension between Israel and Palestine as well as 9.11, to name just a few.

Despite avian flu risk in Turkey and elsewhere in the world, however, Korean tourist traffic to Israel during this winter holiday season continued to rise.

"I'm quite confident that the number of Korean tourists to Israel would hit 50,000 or so annually in the not too distant future," Park Ho-kyun observed.

MS to impose extra fee of $7 on tickets to and from Malaysia

Travelers with Malaysia Airlines will have to fork out an extra US$7 for a single trip to and from Malaysia known as "administration fee" effective Feb. 10. The extra will bring the total to US$34 for a single trip or USE$68 for a round trip. Other extra costs include $6 in war insurance premium and $22 in fuel surcharges.

The collection of the administration fee is in line with the decision made by Malaysian Airline headquarters, which earlier explained that the administration fee is a non-revenue item (NRI) and is necessary to ensure the successful completion of ongoing CRS and GDS projects in coordination with other international carriers.

New fees and other surcharges have become a financial burden for travelers and travel agents. "Imposing extra fees on travelers is like passing the buck to air travelers," one travel agent complained.

It is the first time Malaysia Airlines has imposed administration fees in Korea and frictions between travelers and travel agents are likely for quite some time in the course of the implementation of the system, they observed.

Expedia may take over a key local travel agent

Expedia, Inc., parent company of www.expedia.com, is considering taking over one of the leading off-line travel agents in Korea known only as a company with the initial T.

It owns and operates a diversified portfolio of well-recognized brands— including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia Corporate Travel, Classic Vacations(r), and a range of other US-based and international businesses.

Together, these popular brands and innovative businesses make Expedia, Inc. the largest online travel agency in the world, the third largest travel company in the US, and the fourth largest travel company in the world.

One of its competitors, Travelocity, has already branched out into the local travel industry by having taken over managerial right of NexTour through its subsidiary Juji. Another arch-rival, Orbits, is yet to have taken over any Korean travel agent; but Cendant, one of its subsidiaries, is connected with GTA in Korea.

One major reason behind the recent rush of American online travel companies to Asia and Europe is the saturated American market, which has forced them to explore opportunities in the new and promising markets of Asia and elsewhere.

Online market growth in America has largely slowed down in recent years and such online giants as Expedia and Travelocity are trying to take over local off-line travel agents to solidify their footholds in Asian markets on a medium and long-term basis, market watchers said.

"They realize that Asian markets are not simply following in America's footsteps but are developing their own," said a market watcher.

Expedia delivers consumers everything they need for researching, planning, and purchasing a whole trip. The company is serving many different consumer segments— from families booking a summer vacation to individuals arranging a quick weekend getaway,

"Seven Luck" Casino for foreigners opens in Seoul

A foreigner-only casino was opened for business on Jan. 27, 2006 in southern Seoul as part of efforts to attract more tourists.

Grand Korea Leisure (GKL), a subsidiary company of the state-run Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), is responsible for operation of the gambling facility, named "Seven Luck."

Located at Hanmoo Convention Center near COEX in Samsong-dong, southern Seoul, the 24-hour,
365-day casino has 130 machines and 45 game tables, including baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and poker on a floor space of 859 pyong (2,834 square meters).

Previously, there was a total of 13 foreigner-only casinos nationwide until the government's decision to open the three casinos last year as part of efforts to attract more foreign visitors to the country.

The opening ceremony was held with female dance group Jewelry and Kim Yon-ja, a Korean singer who is famous in Japan, presenting a showcase. Kim Dok-soo's Samulnori troupe performed on Jan. 29 and the signing event of actress Yang Mi-kyung, a star of the soap opera "The Great Changgum," was also held on Jan. 30.

"We expect about 280,000 foreigners will visit the casino this year. If we include visitors to the other two Seven Lucks opening later, we expect some 480,000 gamblers," a casino official said

The company will open another two casinos exclusively for foreigners at Millennium Seoul Hilton in northern Seoul in May and at Busan Lotte in the southeastern port city of Busan in June.

All profits coming from casinos will be used for the construction of tourism infrastructures and development of regional communities, a company official added.




 

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