Cheap and fast — what else can you ask for? Within just five days of JH Ferry launching the Orange, a high-speed ferry running between Jangheung and Seongsan, over 100,000 seats were booked, nearly selling out tickets for the July and August runs.
The ferry’s relatively inexpensive vehicle shipping charge has proved to be a prime attraction of the service among passengers. In mid July, some 70 members of a sport utility vehicle club traveled to Jeju to enjoy driving on the island while avoiding the cost and hassle of hiring rental cars.
Rental cars are often run-down and can smell of cigarette smoke, so it’s unlikely that visitors will feel completely comfortable driving a car they rented just that morning. By the time they become accustomed to the unique habits of the car, it will probably be time to turn it in and head back to the airport.
Propelled by water jets, the Orange cruises at 40 knots per hour, cutting down the journey time from the current five hours to less than two. The ferry also shaved off shipping costs for cars to as low as 96,000 won per return trip, less than half of other competing services departing from Mokpo, Wando and Busan. If travelers plan to stay on the island more than two days, the Orange is a much cheaper alternative to conventional travel packages that combine flights and rental cars.
The sudden explosion of tourists coming through Seong-san port is a great boon for the local economy. According to interviews conducted by the local daily the Jeju Ilbo, since the July launch of the Orange, the number of visitors to Jangheung jumped from a mere 70 to over 1,000 a day and shops and restaurants in Seongsan saw their revenue increase by 30 to 50 percent. Every time the Orange embarks on Seongsan port, scores of taxies line up at the terminal’s taxi stand to pick up passengers.
The ferry is also boosting the local Olle trekking activity. Seongsan port is not far from the Olle trail No. 1. Hikers from the mainland can finish their Jeju walk in a day if they arrive at Seongsan early in the morning by catching a ferry that departs from Jangheung at 8:40 a.m. and returns to the mainland at 6 p.m.
With no sign of the current hectic demand abating any time soon, JH Ferry said that the Orange could shuttle one more run per day if the shortage of seats continues to hold up in the future.
“We don’t rule out a possibility of adding another such ferry to the route to meet the growing demand,” said Jung Kyung Woo, JH Ferry’s sales and marketing manager, “but it would not be easy to find a high-speed ferry big enough to meet the Korean maritime regulations. Ferry boats should be bigger than 2,000 tons to be legally allowed to cruise the high sea between the mainland and Jeju.”
With words about the Orange and the merits of bringing one’s own car to Jeju spreading to other travelers, other local governments in Jeollanam-do reportedly consider opening other routes from their cities to Jeju.
The Orange and other high-speed ferries have a potential to change the nature of holiday driving in Jeju and may pose a long-term threat to the island’s rental car industry.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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