Korea's Jeju Island Gets a New Airport as Tourist Numbers Surge
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
South Korea’s Jeju Island (also known as Jejudo) is not a year-round tropical beach destination. Compared to the rest of the Korean Peninsula, however, it is reasonably warm. Unlike Seoul, which is known for its frigid winter days, Jeju rarely freezes. The temperature hovers above 32° F (0° C) for most of the winter, even at night.
During the summer, Jeju is filled with tourists. If projections are correct, it will become much more crowded in the near future. The island’s airport is the second busiest hub in South Korea (after Seoul Incheon). Jeju International saw more than 23 million passengers last year. The Seoul-Jeju route is currently the world’s busiest with more than 10 million passengers per year. (The Tokyo-Fukuoka and Sydney-Melbourne routes are in the eight million passengers-per-year range).
Popular with both domestic and international travelers
Jeju is THE domestic destination for South Koreans, but it is also rising in popularity with Chinese travelers. Nearly three million tourists flew from the PRC to Jeju last year. According to some forecasts, the overall number of visitors to Jeju could double in the next decade and top 40 million by 2025. The airport has been overwhelmed by low-cost carriers like Jeju Air, Jun Air and Eastar Jet, all of whom offer dirt cheap domestic and regional international flights to the island.
Jeju International Airport would probably have been able to handle one or two low-cost carriers. However, it now has half-a-dozen offering regular service. That is in addition to the flights provided by the airport’s biggest clients, Korean Air, China Eastern and Asiana.
A new airport needed
Because of the increase in traffic and the skyrocketing popularity of Jeju as a travel destination, a second airport is needed. South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced earlier today that a $3.54 billion airport project will soon start on the island. The goal is to complete it before 2025.
The new airport will have a single two-mile-long (3,200 meter) runway. It will be strategically placed on the southern part of the island. The current airport occupies a spot on the northern shore of Jeju. The goal is to spread out the traffic, both in the air and on the ground, so that the island doesn’t get too overcrowded. The new airport will be far enough away from the old one so that incoming and outgoing traffic can flow freely without crossing paths.
According to the Korean Times, the new airport will be able to accommodate 25 million passengers annually.
Jeju should continue to thrive
Interestingly, the two airports may fall under different jurisdictions. The Korean Airport Corporation operates the current Jeju International Airport, but the provincial government is looking into the possibility of running the second airport by itself.
Jeju should continue to prosper as a tourist destination. There is really no other destination in South Korea that can compete with its weather, reputation and natural beauty. However, the island could eventually become so crowded that Koreans will start looking elsewhere for their weekend getaways.
More by Josh Lew
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