The nation will expand advertising campaigns targeting tourists from South Korea following the launch of direct flights between Taipei International Airport (Songshan) and Gimpo Airport in Seoul yesterday.
The direct flights are part of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) vision of a “golden aviation circle in Northeast Asia,” which also includes direct flights from Songshan to Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport and Tokyo Haneda airport.
Compared with travelers arriving at Incheon International airport, which is about 1 hour away from downtown Seoul, it takes between 20 and 30 minutes to reach the center of the South Korean capital from Gimpo.
At the inauguration ceremony yesterday, Ma said Taipei has the advantage compared with the three other cities.
“Songshan is downtown and it is only 5 minutes away from the city’s business district,” he said.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said Songshan was equipped with all the necessary facilities to serve business travelers.
He said the ministry would work with the Taipei City Government on a zoning project to develop properties near the airport.
“The Civil Aeronautics Administration building will be turned into an international tourism hotel,” Mao said.
Tourism Bureau Director-General David Hsieh (謝謂君) said the new route would attract mostly business travelers, as well as free independent travelers.
He said the bureau planned to launch separate tourism campaigns for Japan and South Korea this year, rather than use the same campaign for both countries.
Hsieh said the bureau would focus on appealing to South Korean visitors using four different attractions: golf, mountain hiking, cycling and Taiwanese cuisine.
Asked if the bureau had any specific people in mind who would help market any of the stated attractions, Hsieh said the bureau could ask Taiwanese female golfer Yani Tseng (曾雅妮), ranked No. 1 in the world, to be its official representative.
Hsieh said the bureau was also considering asking South Korean climber Um Hong-gil, the first person to have climbed the 16 highest Himalayan peaks, to help introduce Taiwan’s mountain climbing experience to South Koreans.
About 240,000 South Korean tourists visited Taiwan last year, a number Hsieh said could reach 300,000 this year.
About 420,000 Taiwanese visited South Korea last year.
Taiwan granted the exclusive right to operate the Songshan-Gimpo route to China Airlines (CAL) and EVA Airways (EVA), the nation’s two largest carriers, while South Korea awarded the rights to budget airlines T’way Airlines and Eastar Jet.
A price war also appeared to intensify on the first day of the direct flights. While both CAL and EVA have offered special ticket prices ranging from NT$12,507 to NT$12,791 before the end of this month, the two budget carriers sold their tickets for between NT$9,689 and NT$9,888.
CAL reported a 98 percent seat occupancy rate on its first flight to Seoul yesterday morning, following a special deal offered by a local travel agency.
EVA president Chang Kuo-wei (張國煒) said his firm was not intimidated by low-cost carriers.
“Most of the passengers using the direct flights will be parallel importers,” Chang said. “Carriers [on the Songshan-Gimpo route] can only offer two flights per day using medium-size aircraft with a capacity of fewer than 200 people. A price war is not likely to happen.”