Posted on: March 14, 2022, 10:31h. 

Last updated on: March 14, 2022, 10:53h.

South Korea’s tourism and casino industries will be getting a much-needed boost soon. The country is lifting certain COVID-19 travel restrictions, although there will still be some requirements in place.

Seven Luck Casino in GangnamGrand Korea Leisure’s Seven Luck Casino in Gangnam. The casino and others in the country will soon be able to see more activity as South Korea relaxes inbound travel restrictions. (Image: Asian Gaming Brief)

South Korea continues to deal with COVID-19 issues. However, as other countries have shown, it’s possible to have an operational tourism industry while health officials tackle the problems.

The country hopes it can do both. It is opening its international tourism market on March 21, as long as inbound travelers have the COVID-19 vaccine.

Travel Corridors Open Up

Officials with South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced on Friday that it’s time to relax COVID-19 rules. In just a week, there will no longer be the seven-day mandatory quarantine for inbound travelers. However, to qualify, the individuals must show that they have received three COVID-19 shots.

Those who only have two vaccinations and don’t want the third “booster” will have to wait just a little longer. As of April 1, anyone with either two or three COVID-19 shots can enter South Korea without having to quarantine.

The update applies to the mainland and Jeju Island. The latter is home to Jeju Shinhwa World, which remained closed for two years during the pandemic. It saw a brief reprieve last November, but South Korea brought back the COVID-19 restrictions a month later.

South Korea has 17 casinos, and they all rely on international tourism for their survival. Some 16 are foreigner-only properties that have been hit hardest by the multiple COVID-19 lockdowns.

There are some restrictions, though. Anyone looking to visit South Korea from Myanmar, Pakistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan will still have to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status.

In order to not face any delays or unexpected issues, travelers need to register with Q-CODE, South Korea’s quarantine pre-entry system. This can be done online and is a requirement for everyone to enter unless they previously received all three of their shots in the country.

Casino Operators Ready for a Rebound

Casino operators in the country are ready for the COVID-19 nightmare to end. Grand Korea Leisure (GKL) which operates three foreigner-only casinos in the country, saw its revenue drop in February to KRW6.85 billion (US$5.6 million). This was 29.6% lower than a month earlier.

The good news is that the figure was still significantly better than a year ago. GKL added 1,250% to February 2020’s performance. The aggregate total for January and February this year was an improvement of 3,000% from last year.

Paradise Co, which also operates foreigner-only casinos in the country, reported KRW17.07 billion (US$14.2 million) for its February revenue. That is a 5.9% drop from January. Unlike GKL’s year-on-year gain, though, it lost 5.7% from last year.

Whether operators can rebound will depend on how the country continues to address COVID-19. The numbers are not falling, which could be a problem.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there were 282,976 new cases on March 10. This rose to 383,651 the following day. While Sunday’s figure, at 309,769, was down, it is still extremely high.

Since the beginning of the year, the number of new cases in the country has steadily risen. Along with that increase, the number of deaths is climbing as well.