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Korean tensions cramp Philippine outbound
Rosa Ocampo, Manila, April 16, 2013

FILIPINO tour groups and FITs shaken by North Korea's threats to attack its southern neighbour and the US have cancelled their trips to South Korea over the last two weeks.


“Some have reservations about travelling to South Korea so if it’s not urgent, like for business, they postpone the trip,” said Jane Cuyegkeng, general manager, Pioneer Tours.


“Even for (travellers heading to) US destinations like San Francisco and Los Angeles, passengers don’t want to pass through South Korea and are requesting a change of airlines from Korean Air and Asiana Airlines,” revealed Maria Michelle Victoria, president of Golden Eagle Travel and Tours.


“With travel cancellations, we were forced to cancel our blockings with airlines,” said another travel consultant who wished to remain anonymous.


March to June are the peak months for Filipinos travelling to South Korea, but tensions on the Korean peninsula have diverted them to Bangkok, Hong Kong and even Japan instead, said Cuyegkeng.


Victoria said it was lamentable that tensions on the Korean peninsula were happening at a time when Philippine outbound to the destination was going strong, buoyed by the popularity of Korean dramas, cool weather and easy accessibility.


Representatives from KTO Manila, which was established last May in response to the robust Philippine market, are expected to meet up with travel agencies this week to discuss the issue.


Early this month, KTO Manila assured the industry that “the situation (was) normal” and that South Korea was not in a state of war. The KTO Singapore office distributed a similar notice in Singapore (TTG Asia e-Daily, April 4, 2013).


Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan has become the first government to tell its citizens to put off visiting South Korea, reported Reuters.


According to Singapore daily The Straits Times, schools in Singapore were either delaying or cancelling school trips to South Korea, or choosing to go elsewhere as the threat of conflict looms over the country.


International Paradise Connexions Travel said five schools that had intended to take trips to South Korea were considering going to another destination, quoted the paper.

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