Incheon ferry terminal’s international car ferry services plan to resume operations next month, ending a three-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Several companies have announced the resumption of passenger transportation services between Incheon and various cities in China, as well as the sale of travel packages.
The exact date of resumption has yet to be announced, but the industry’s resumption plan follows the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters’ announcement earlier this month to lift all travel regulations, including mandatory PCR tests for mainland Chinese, Hong Kong, and Macau visitors.
The health authorities decided to lift travel restrictions against China and neighboring countries because China has seen a stable trend in new Covid-19 cases for more than a month following the Spring Festival holidays in January, and there have been no signs of the coronavirus variant inside or outside the country.
The three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic has devastated the ferry business at Incheon Ferry Terminal. Prior to the pandemic, over 1 million passengers traveled to Korea via car ferries from ten Chinese cities in 2019, including Qingdao, Dalian, and Tianjin. Since all passenger transport was halted at the terminal in February 2020, the terminal and shipping companies have only transported cargo.
The Incheon Port Authority (IPA), which manages the international ferry terminal in the port city, is preparing to fully operationalize customs, immigration, and quarantine, as well as facilities such as duty-free, restaurants, and currency exchange offices. Meanwhile, flight availability will increase in Korea and China, as the governments of the two countries agreed to expand the number of major destinations.
In early March, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport announced that by the end of the month, approximately 200 weekly flights will operate between Korea and China, with flight operations reaching pre-pandemic levels by October. There are currently only eight flights available between Incheon and Beijing and Shanghai.
In turn, Korean Air announced on Friday that it intends to increase the number of flights to China from 13 per week to 84 by the end of this month. In addition, the airline plans to operate 99 flights between Korea and China in two months, accounting for 43% of the pre-pandemic level.
However, the two countries’ tourism revival will only gain traction if Chinese authorities decide to allow group tours to Korea and begin issuing tourist visas to those who wish to visit. The Chinese government has excluded Korea from its list of countries to which Chinese citizens are permitted to travel.
Following its February announcement of 20 countries, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism revealed its second list of 40 countries from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central America last Friday. Korea, along with Japan and the United States, has never been on the list.