Pyongyang keeps tourists and Ebola at bay

KORYO Tours, specialising in small group tours to North Korea, is hopeful that the government in Pyongyang will soon lift a blanket ban on tourists.

North Korea closed its borders to travellers in late-October and require diplomats and businesspeople to undergo a 21-day quarantine to ensure that they are Ebola-free.

 “There has been no firm news on when we might be able to start sending groups into North Korea again, but we are very hopeful of an announcement later this month or perhaps early in February,” Simon Cockerell, general manager of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, told TTG Asia e-Daily.

 “Our contacts at the Ministry of Sport have told us that we could start tours again in 1Q, but nothing official has been said yet.”

No cases of Ebola have been reported anywhere in Asia since the serious outbreak in West Africa last year, but North Korea is taking no chances and had reacted similarly in 2009, when avian flu was confirmed in parts of Asia.

Koryo Tours is hoping the border will be open again before the Pyongyang Marathon on April 12, with dozens of foreign runners already in training for the event. The company has so far had to cancel five tours to date, with its clients drawn primarily from the US and Europe.

“We also have a growing number of visitors from Singapore, Hong Kong and other parts of East Asia,” said Cockerell, who added that tourists are taking advantage of the recent weakness of the euro on global currency markets to book their euro-denominated vacations with Koryo Tours.

The company works with more than 20 travel partners around the world and can be contacted through its website

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