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[News Focus] From free air tickets to meal discounts: Vaccine marketing takes off

COVID-19 vaccine proof badge given to those who are vaccinated in Muju County, North Jeolla Province (Yonhap)
COVID-19 vaccine proof badge given to those who are vaccinated in Muju County, North Jeolla Province (Yonhap)
From free air tickets and special discounts on burgers to vaccinated-only seats at concerts, local industries are revving up their marketing efforts to target the rapidly growing number of Koreans getting their COVID-19 vaccine shots.

As of Sunday, over 15 million people, or some 29.2 percent of the total population, have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, surpassing the government’s initial goal of inoculating 13 million in the first half of this year, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Local businesses, many of which had to endure unseen business contractions during the yearlong pandemic, are rolling out big promotional events in anticipation of a quick return to normalcy, while also hoping to help boost vaccination rates.

Last week, Lotteria became the first fast-food chain to present a promotional discount on burgers for those vaccinated. According to the burger franchise, it is giving a 30 percent discount for five of its popular burgers to customers who provide proof of their first dose of vaccination.

The promotion runs until July 7 at about 350 Lotteria outlets across the country from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the company added.

“We organized the vaccine event wishing for the COVID-19 situation to get better and to encourage more people to get inoculated,” a Lotteria official said.

The three major theater chains, CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox, are also running a vaccine campaign and offering discounts to vaccinated people along with one person accompanying them. 

Seokjojeon Hall concert (Cultural Heritage Administration)
Seokjojeon Hall concert (Cultural Heritage Administration)

Kumho Cultural Foundation and Deoksugung Palace Management Office of the Cultural Heritage Administration are holding their first concert this year at the Seokjojeon Hall inside the historical palace on June 30.

While the concert is free and will be livestreamed on YouTube, the organizers are allowing 20 people to watch it at the site for the first time since the pandemic outbreak, while limiting seats to only those who have been vaccinated.

The encouraging atmosphere is seen not only in business sectors. The government and regional councils are also introducing various benefits for those who have been vaccinated.

From June, those who are inoculated with at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine are exempt from paying entrance fees to national eco parks and recreational forests. Special events are also being planned for the popular night tours inside the palaces Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung in Seoul, according to the government.

Hwaseong in Gyeonggi Province said it is giving discounts and free entrance across 65 public facilities, including a history museum and camping sites, for those who have been completely inoculated or received Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot regimen.

In Jinan, North Jeolla Province, those who have been inoculated with the first shot of the vaccine for over 14 days are given an 80 percent discount to district-operated gym facilities and 80 percent discount for golf driving ranges. Older people who have been vaccinated will also be permitted for entrance to silver halls, the district said.

The travel and hotel industry is perhaps most excited about the vaccination campaign gathering speed.

Air Busan is offering free domestic flight tickets to those who have been inoculated, even with only their first dose. From June 11 to July 15, the carrier is offering free seats to the first five inoculated people making reservations for each flight. For all vaccinated passengers departing for Jeju Island, Air Busan is also providing baggage priority service during the period, the company said.

Shilla Stay, the business hotel brand operated by Shilla Hotel, has introduced an incentive package with benefits of early check-in and late checkout for those who were vaccinated, as well as a 20 percent discount for its buffet, restaurants and cafes. Conrad Seoul, Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Times Square and Kolon Seacloud Hotel in Busan are also rolling out perks for vaccine recipients.

“First, the ‘vaccine marketing’ will attract customers for us, and it would also encourage more people to get vaccinated. Ultimately, we wish for the effects of the vaccine to spread and revive the overall industry,” an industry official said.

By Jo He-rim (