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Chinese Visitors Fueling the Rise of Cheongju Airport

Posted August. 19, 2010 13:49,   


Cheongju International Airport in North Chungcheong Province is finally seeing success since opening in April 1997 thanks to Chinese tourists.

The number of passengers on air routes to China tripled from last year, and with the recent surge in Chinese tourists, the airport has Korea`s highest boarding rate.

In this year`s first half, the airport was first in the overall boarding rate (ratio of passengers relative to the number of seats) for all routes among the 15 airports nationwide. The number of daily passengers reached 5,271 July 31, the highest figure since the airport`s opening.

The Cheongju airport has yet to finish in the black but Korean aviation industry experts say its success stems from the rising number of Chinese tourists.

According to Korea Airports Corp., the number of passengers who used the Cheongju airport to travel to and from Beijing, Changchun, Xi’an and Yanji was 25,649 between January and July this year, almost three times that in the same period last year.

Chinese travelers accounted for 53.7 percent of the 47,758 people who used international routes at the airport.

The airport’s boarding rate in the first half was 81.6 percent, higher than that of Jeju International Airport at 79.3 percent, Incheon International Airport at 77.1 percent and Gimpo International Airport at 76.4 percent. The latter three airports are all in the black.

Passengers who use the Cheongju airport to travel to and from China include Koreans, but most of them are Chinese tourists, according to the airports corporation. Tourism industry insiders say the Cheongju airport’s strength is favorable access to Seoul and Jeju Island, two highly popular destinations among Chinese tourists.

A Hana Tour source said, “Costs including the airport fee are cheaper at the Cheongju airport for China-bound flights and lower than those of the same flights at Incheon International Airport. The Cheongju airport is seeing more Chinese passengers since they can reach Seoul in an hour or two from the airport.”

Another advantage is convenient access to low-cost lodging facilities in Gyeonggi Province, a hit with the Chinese.

Provincial governments including that of North Chungcheong Province also have granted benefits to air carriers that open routes to and from the airport to attract more foreign tourists. This incentive is also helping to increase passenger traffic there.

Korean Air will open a Cheongju–Osaka route Sept. 1 and a Cheongju-Bangkok route the next day in addition to its flights bound for China. The Cheongju-Hong Kong route, which opened last month, will be expanded to three times per week from next month as Korea’s top air carrier beefs up its international flight services.