SOUTH KOREA. A study by Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) reveals strong interest among both Koreans and foreigners in travelling internationally after the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, writes The Moodie Davitt Report Senior Retail and Commercial Analyst Min Yong Jung*.

According to the survey conducted by IIAC’s Airport Industry Technology Research Institute, around seven out of 10 Koreans (70.2%) and eight out of 10 foreigners (82%) said they intended to make overseas trips once a COVID-19 vaccine is made available. The airport polled opinion from 1,600 people (1,000 Koreans and 600 travellers from China, Japan, Vietnam and others).

Favoured destinations by Korean travellers were Europe (42.2%) and Asia (41.1%). Foreigners in the survey preferred Asia and Europe but the preference for Asia (57.2%) was higher and lower for Europe (22.6%) compared to Korean travellers.

This infographic offers a snapshot of traveller opinion about traveller attitudes in the post-COVID-19 era (click to enlarge)

The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will differ globally as government procurement and inoculation plans vary. Most Koreans (70.9%) and foreigners (75.3%) said they would take a vaccine once it becomes available. The overwhelming reason Koreans are taking the vaccine is to resume overseas travel (89.1%) while the responses varied among foreigners.

Most cited tourism as the key reason to travel abroad, with business travel next. The most popular planned travel periods ranged from seven days to one month (48.4% Koreans and 49.2% foreigners) compared to those that expressed a preference for short 1-3 day trips (5.2% Koreans and 8.2% foreigners).

In a key question for travel retail, those surveyed were asked when they are likely to travel again once a vaccine becomes available. The highest number of responses focused around the next three to six months (33.4% of Koreans and 35.3% of foreigners) while the lowest number of responses was for under three months (15.3% Koreans and 9% foreigners). This suggests that a swift recovery in the first half of 2021 may be difficult to achieve.

The consumer attitudes survey offers hope of recovery for retailers at Incheon and elsewhere in 2021

Vaccine distribution plan by country

China: China is set to approve 600 million doses of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December 2020.

Korea: Seoul has signed deals for 20 million doses each from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, plus another 4 million doses from Johnson & Johnson. Although the government has announced that vaccinations will begin in February to March next year, South Korean health experts comment that widespread vaccinations are unlikely until Autumn 2021, because the country must go through its own safety checks.

Japan: Japan is working on plans to begin a mass coronavirus vaccination drive by March 2021. The Health Ministry said at least 10,500 freezers will be bought for storage and distribution of vaccines across the country, Kyodo News reported.

Assuming Chinese travellers resume their travel following their vaccination, it is likely that they will lead the travel recovery in 2021. Assuming resumption of South Korean and Japanese travel within three to six months of vaccination rollout, the recovery for these markets could occur between June and September 2021.

“Incheon International Airport is making all-out efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the front line of the nation’s quarantine,” said IIAC Acting President Nam-Soo Lim. “As the demand for domestic and foreign travel due to the development of the vaccine is high, we will check the facilities and passenger service based on the excellent quarantine system.”

IIAC’s Airport Industry Technology Research Institute Professor Yu-Jin Choi, who conducted the study, told The Moodie Davitt Report that the findings reaffirm people’s intent to travel after their safety is assured. Professor Choi said that although there may be difficulties in the vaccine distribution, the recovery of global travel will come with the majority of travellers intending to resume travelling overseas.

*The Moodie Davitt Report and Voiceback Analytics recently released two new consumer research studies that examine the travel attitudes and shopping preferences of Chinese and Indian consumers post-COVID-19. Please contact Senior Retail and Commercial Analyst Min Yong Jung at for more information and insights from each of these key markets. More information can be found here.

*Note: Korean national Min Yong Jung, formerly based in London and now in Seoul, is Senior Retail and Commercial Analyst at The Moodie Davitt Report. His appointment in June 2019 was the first of its kind in travel retail media. It marked the creation of the Moodie Davitt Business Intelligence Unit, a new division designed to provide a previously unseen level of research and analysis for the travel retail channel.

Do you have research needs related to the Korean and Asia Pacific travel retail and luxury markets? Min Yong Jung can be contacted at

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