Korean Travelers Increasingly Prefer Self-Guided Tours Over Travel Agency’s Traditional Package Deals

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Hyun-seok Kim, a 35-year-old living in South Korea, has already made himself familiar with the United States after having visited the country years ago. So when Kim chose to travel across the East Coast this coming fall for his vacation, he decided that the better way to get the most out of his trip is to go on a self-guided tour rather than a packaged deal promoted by many of the Korean traveling agencies.

Group tours organized by agencies have long been a prevalent form of traveling for South Koreans, many of whom fear language barrier and safety issues they may encounter in another country. Monitored by a tour guide, nearly every counting hour of those trips are often preplanned by the agency. In other words, the travelers seldom have the option of choosing where to go eat and shopping at their destinations.

However, when Kim found MyRealTrip, an agency that simply connects local residents of the travelers’ desired destination for a set fee, ruling out the strictly guided tours offered by the other agencies became an easy decision for him. In fact, Kim realized that finding a local who is willing to provide accommodation for him via MyRealTrip costs at least 20 percent less than the packaged deals of traditional Korean agencies.

Aside from the cost, the freedom to travel independently is a must-have option for many of today’s travelers, which makes middleman-like traveling businesses, such as MyRealTrip, stand out from the rest of the agencies.

After starting out as a blog in the early 2000s, MyRealTrip was a mere provider of traveling tips at first. After garnering a strong base of visitors online, the blog’s founder Dong-gun Lee grew it into travel arrangement services, which today connects travelers to around 2,000 hosts across 230 cities around the world.

Among the current postings available via MyRealTrip website for travelers who wish to visit Los Angeles, a variety of deals ranging from watching a baseball game at Dodger Stadium to spending a day in Disneyland to a road trip in an RV.

In addition, there are plenty of other websites and blogs operated by residents in big cities, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York, who are willing to host travelers from South Korea and provide accommodations, such as airport pickup and other sightseeing trips in their respective cities for a set fee.

“Most of my travelers are in their 20s and 30s,” said an independent travel guide, who only identified himself with his last name Lee. “My tours are centered on activities and sightseeing that travelers can’t often get at traditional agencies, so their level of satisfaction tends to be higher.”

By Brian Choi