There are lots of things about South Korea that fascinate us. The scenery, the vibes, the food, the shopping experience - all of them are top-notch! And we haven’t even talked about Korean pop culture yet, which has boosted this country’s popularity in the travel industry over the years.
So what to expect from South Korean tourism in 2022 as we see the country easing restrictions? We chatted with Lizzy Piao, Senior Manager of Local Solutions in Korea team, about the development of Klook Korea, how they pivoted during the pandemic, and how they are preparing for international travel again this year.
Senior Manager, Local Solutions, Korea
Could you share your role and responsibilities in the Korea team right now?
I’m now Senior Manager of Local Solutions in the Korea team. This team might be the one and only in Klook. The main objective of the role is to help build up platform foundations from a local business perspective. For example, payment options, log-in system, and other parts of the platform. We try to optimize the platform features to be as hyperlocal as possible to match Korean users’ behaviors.
You've been with Klook Korea since 2016. How has Klook Korea developed in the past 5 years?
I joined Klook in August 2016, when there was no Korea office yet and we had less than one hundred employees globally. I visited the Korea office for the first time during a business trip in early 2017 and there were only less than 10 colleagues working in a small office room in WeWork. But when I relocated to the Korea office in July 2018, the team grew a lot and there were almost 30 colleagues.
By the end of 2019, there were over 50 colleagues and we even moved to a bigger office with a very fancy interior!
Meet the Klook Korea team!
The biggest difference that I can feel is the planning and process. In the beginning, there was no clear planning or process aligned over different teams and all communications were done case by case. Now, we do yearly planning, OKR set-up and tracking, and we have several tools for different processes to improve cross-team communication efficiency.
What are your team's achievements that made you proud so far?
There were many moments when I felt so proud of the whole team, especially when we experienced a tough time during the pandemic. It took some time for the team to pivot the business to the domestic market. We really worked as one team to achieve the leading market share of some key attractions in the domestic market and even grew the domestic business sales by several times in 2021 compared to a year before.
I would say becoming the main player in the domestic travel market within only 2 years is the biggest achievement of the whole Korea team.
That's amazing! What are the initiatives that the team has been doing since the pandemic?
The Korea team tried out several different initiatives in the domestic market. For example, we focused on promoting Ulleung island, which is a small island that was previously well-known as a group tour destination for elder people. But we succeeded in exploring the opportunities and became the first online travel platform that kickstarted a mainstream interest in the destination.
Just one example of the hidden beauty in Ulleung-do!
In running the promotional deals of attractions and theme parks, the team continued optimizing their operation cadence even after setting them up. Because of such continuous efforts, we were able to achieve the top market share of those attractions and theme parks.
This year, we are still trying some new initiatives to win the market. We continue to build the core business that Klook is good at as we keep exploring new opportunities in some niche markets.
What do you think about the prospect of Korean tourism from 2022 onwards? Will we still focus on the domestic market?
I believe that people are very eager to travel again, not only domestically but also overseas. We can see more and more countries reopening their borders. We do believe that cross-border travel will come back to us again, and obviously, Klook is the leading player in the cross-border travel market.
With our success in the domestic market since the pandemic and the comeback of international travelers, I think there might be even bigger opportunities for Klook in the future.
With so many countries opening up borders and resuming international travel, it's only time Korea will do the same. How does your team prepare for the inbound travel?
International tourists have started to return to Korea with the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme.
Since the situations change so fast, the team is always prepared to open up anytime. Firstly, our Business Development (BD) team keeps in touch with our merchants regularly to check if their business is still running smoothly. Secondly, they are also developing PCR tours with a few merchants to provide convenience for inbound travelers, given the PCR test might become a must-have item for cross-border travel.
Lastly, we are also working with KTO (Korea Tourism Organization) very closely to collaborate with different markets for campaign reopening.
Will Korean pop culture, like K-pop and K-drama, still be the main appeal of Korean tourism for international tourists?
I think Korean pop culture has successfully drawn a lot of attention from people around the world, with examples like Squid Game, BTS, etc. I believe these kinds of cultural icons will attract more travelers to Korea in the near future. At the same time, Korea has other unique and wonderful experiences that are worth trying. For example, Korean food, skiing, natural landscapes in Jeju island, and so on.
Korea also has breathtaking scenery like this one in Jeju-do.
What to expect from Korean tourism in the future?
With a very high vaccination rate of 86%, I believe Korea is more than ready to open up the border. If that happens, I suppose that Korea's inbound travel will gradually pick up in the near future, although the trend will vary according to the travelers’ origins.
For Asian countries, where most international tourists come from pre-Covid, it might still take some time for the border to fully open up considering their vaccination rates are relatively low. We still hope to see more travel bubbles like between Korea and Singapore, which might bring some sparks into the market.
For western countries, where the borders are already open and have higher vaccination rates, the biggest hurdle might be the high flight cost. I believe with more frequent flights and cheaper tickets, we can definitely expect more people to visit the country.
Soon, more international tourists will enjoy iconic scenery like Gamcheon Cultural Village in Busan again.
What does Klook Korea team culture look like? What makes people want to join the team?
We actually struggled a lot in building up the team culture, especially after Covid-19, because our working environment just changed so much that many people were working from home. Sometimes, we might not even know what our new colleagues look like a few weeks after they joined us. We had few chances to talk to our colleagues about non-business stuff and we knew little about them.
However, thanks to our Klook Circle team that helped set up regular gatherings both online and offline, we had more opportunities to talk to colleagues from different teams. We had an offline picnic with a small group as well as online team-building events with some small games. These events really helped the team to know each other more and work even more efficiently as one team with one goal.
The most important thing is that the colleagues are so talented and warm-hearted. Each person is doing their best in their own role. Whenever something needs support, they just roll up their sleeves to help each other and work out together. I always feel thankful to all the colleagues around me that make me feel reassured and I’m not alone.
Our Korea team is hiring!
Posted by Klook Careers