Korean beachside destination Busan will significantly expand its connectivity with the European business and leisure supply market next year with the March 2020 projected opening of thrice-weekly direct flights between Gimhae International Airport and Helsinki by flagship operator Finnair. The new service will provide the first direct flights between Busan and Europe, reducing travel times for passengers journeying to and from Korea’s largest port city, making it more attractive to overseas meeting planners and global visitors.
Currently, business travelers flying to Busan direct from Europe are required to transfer to the city via Incheon International Airport using either additional domestic air or ground services, adding several hours’ travel time one way in the case of rail.
The new Finnair service forms part of a memorandum of understanding signed between South Korea and Finland last month to better facilitate multisector bilateral exchange. Due to its location, Helsinki Airport serves as a major transit hub for European flights to 15 Asian destinations, with the current Seoul route taking 10 hours and 40 minutes.
It is the latest in an ongoing expansion of global direct flights being added to Gimhae International Airport’s operations, with Silk Air commencing four-times-weekly flights between Busan and Singapore, and Jeju Airlines doing likewise from July 4th.
Improved air access is expected to provide a considerable boost to Busan’s growing profile as a large-scale meeting host. Upcoming events include the 2019 International Diabetes Federation Congress (15,000 participants), 2020 World Table Tennis Championships (2,000 pax), and the 2021 International Astronomical Union General Assembly (3,000 pax).
The city also regularly attracts global visitors to its local annual events and festivals, including the K-pop-themed One Asia Festival and Busan International Film Festival, both held every October. A total of 2,473,520 people visited Busan in 2018, up from 2,396,237 in 2017. The figure is expected to hit 3 million by the end of this year.
Nearby regional attractions in Korea’s southeast frequently included in add-on cultural tours for foreign event participants attending meetings in Busan include the UNESCO-rich city of Gyeongju and Andong Hahoe Folk Village.