TICKET buyers for the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea aren’t going for the gold just yet, as “there’s extremely light interest” with the Games just three months away, organisers and travel agents say.
Anbritt Stengele, founder of the Chicago-based Sports Traveler, told USA Today that the stagnant market for Olympic tickets is unlike any in recent years.
“The interest level is very low for this Olympics,” Ms Stengele said. “We had Sochi (Russia) in 2014, and that interest level was lower than Vancouver (in 2010). But this is even lower than Sochi. I would classify it as extremely light interest.”
A major part of the problem, Ms Stengele said, is the unpredictability of North Korea just miles away, particularly as its leader, Kim Jong Un, trades threats with President Trump as the hermit kingdom conducts a record number of ballistic missile tests this year, reports the New York Post. Adding to the already high tension, Mr Trump on Monday put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which allows the United States to impose more sanctions on the nation pertaining to its nuclear weapons program.
“It should have happened a long time ago,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.
Other would-be travellers might be dissuaded by the prospect of flying into Seoul before needing to travel to some event sites that are more than 140 miles away, Ms Stengele said.
“They’re burning an extra night in a hotel room in Seoul,” Ms Stengele said. “That in itself has had a lot of pushback from our regular customers who are used to landing and hitting the ground running.”
Organisers said they’ve reached just 41 per cent of their sales target of 1.06 million tickets as of Thursday, according to USA Today. Sales in South Korea, meanwhile, are even lower compared to purchases by international travellers.
Kayak, a travel search engine, is also reporting lower interest for Pyeongchang compared to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. A 63 per cent increase was found in searches for Pyeongchang during a four- to six-month span ahead of the Games, compared to a 111 per cent increase during the same time prior to the Rio Games.
“It’s safe to say that while both destinations gained interest in advance of the Games, Rio saw higher travel demand at this point,” David Solomito of Kayak told USA Today.
But organisers aren’t worried just yet, as Koreans are known to be “last-minute buyers”, according to Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the Pyeongchang Games Organizing Committee.
“We believe that excitement for the Games will continue to get stronger,” Park told the paper.
The UN General Assembly approved a resolution last week urging all countries to observe a truce during the upcoming South Korea games, calling for peace during the week before the Olympics start on February 9 until a week after the Paralympic Winter Games end on March 18.
“Only the UN member states can guarantee the athletes the safe passage to the Olympic Games,” Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, told the 193-member world body. “They make it possible for all the Olympic athletes to realise their dream of a lifetime.”