One of the difficulties that came along with the prolonged situation of the COVID-19 outbreak is international travel. Taking a good rest in somewhere different or experiencing a new culture is not as easy as it used to be. Now, when disease control is most important than ever, a mandatory quarantine period for entering a country is very common.
In this time of COVID-19, “travel bubble” has been suggested as the most plausible alternative for traveling abroad. Today, we will find out what the travel bubble is and what meaning there is to it. We will also go through the items and details of the survey on intent to travel conducted at Incheon Airport!
What is a “travel bubble”?
A travel bubble is one of the greatest points of interest that global airlines and the travel industry are considering with prolonged COVID-19. Travel bubble refers to an agreement among countries with verified ability of disease control allowing their residents with negative COVID-19 test results to travel back and forth between the countries with no separate quarantine period.
This is a newly invented word after the COVID-19 outbreak. It means to say that countries with outstanding disease control abilities are inside a safe bubble. The bubble forms a safety shield blocking external risk factors, while enabling free travel inside! It is also called an air bridge or travel corridor in a sense that it connects certain travel destinations.
The first countries that made the travel bubble agreement are Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also established a limited travel bubble facilitating official business trips with no quarantine period upon arrival.
More and more countries are also implementing the travel bubble agreement. On October 16, Australia and New Zealand signed the agreement followed by Hong Kong and Singapore. Hong Kong, in particular, is considering forming a travel bubble with 11 countries, including South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Singapore.
South Korea, which is also eligible for the agreement, is considering partnering with Asian countries. The Korean government is currently discussing the matter with Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Singapore. The recent peak in the COVID-19 trend may delay the implementation, but it surely is relieving news for the airline and travel industry which have been greatly hit by the pandemic.
So, what meaning does it have to Korea to actively form travel bubbles?
First of all, forming travel bubbles will be most advantageous for increasing profits of airlines. Since travelers will not be required a mandatory period of quarantine, more people will be flying for travel and business purposes. It will be a good opportunity for most travel industries, which have been greatly suffering from the prolonged COVID-19 situation.
Stabilizing the trend of confirmed patients through disease control is essential to form a travel bubble, as the agreement is among countries with less COVID-19 impact and low confirmation trends. This matter was raised several times at the National Assembly inspection of government offices in October. Maintaining the agreement also requires a high level of COVID-19 response from all travel bubble partners.
Of course, a thorough preliminary inspection is needed for a travel bubble that really works. In this regard, Incheon Airport conducted a survey on the impact of travel bubbles to the intent of traveling abroad. Let’s take a closer look.
Survey on intent to travel after forming travel bubbles
Last September, Incheon Airport’s Airport Industry Technology Research Institute (AITRI) revealed the results of a survey on the intent to travel responded by 600 locals of over 18 years of age and 400 foreigners from Vietnam and China. The objective was to find out the impact of the travel agreement on international flights, as well as determining which air route should have the greatest number of passengers. Incheon Airport announced that it will make strong efforts to form travel agreements, starting with this survey.
The items of the questionnaire conducted by AITRI was formed in five categories. Let’s go through them one by one.
The first question is on the awareness on travel bubbles. About 30% of Koreans were aware of this system, while 66% of non-Koreans had already known about it. This implies that the travel bubble should be more actively promoted in Korea to establish more travel bubbles.
The second item is on the intent to travel before and after the forming of travel bubbles. 11.2% of Koreans responded that they have the intent to travel before the forming of travel bubbles, while 52.8% of them responded that they do after the implementation. As for non-Koreans, 20.8% and 72.2% responded the same, respectively, showing a significant increase after the forming of the system. This must mean that more people would travel after the implementation of the travel bubble.
Then, why did respondents wish to travel after forming travel bubbles? The greatest result turned out to be because they believe there will be no risk of COVID-19 transmission. Wishing to explore a new travel destination was also answered by a lot of respondents. However, the reason others still chose not to travel even after forming travel bubbles turned out to be concerns of COVID-19 transmission, so there must be a lot of endeavor in securing safety even after the forming of travel bubbles.
Then, which countries did the respondents prefer to travel? Most responded Southeast Asia, making up 20.3% of Korean respondents. Most non-Koreans chose Korea (34.2%) followed by Japan (23.4%) and Southeast Asia (7.9%), showing a preference for Asian countries.
Many Koreans responded they wish to see natural scenic areas and visit historic sites (52.8%) as their purpose of travel. As for non-Koreans, exploring food (34.6%) was the most popular purpose.
Today, we found out what travel bubble is and the intent to travel after the implementation of travel bubbles. Should the system be put into action, it is expected to give positive impact on the travel industry as well as the leisure activities of people.
Incheon Airport is striving for the travel bubble agreement, stage by stage, with hopes to reoperate the international air routes. We hope this persistent endeavor will make a substantial result. Until then, Incheon Airport will focus on disease control and prevention for safe travel in this time of COVID-19!