South Korea boasts of ma­jor con­ven­tion cen­ters and unique fa­cil­i­ties to serve the world’s big­gest gath­er­ings.

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Korean, fea­tur­ing a state- ofthe-art holo­gram booth where guests can take vir­tual pho­tos along with their fa­vorite hal­lyu stars, and par­tic­i­pate in an han­sik ( tra­di­tional Korean food) ex­hi­bi­tion and classes, among oth­ers.

“The K-Wave dra­mas have a greater im­pact on at­tract­ing large in­cen­tive groups... Korea will con­tinue to bank on the KWave in at­tract­ing MICE groups, par­tic­u­larly on in­cen­tive travel, to high­light new places of at­trac­tions and other uniquely Korean ac­tiv­i­ties,” Ms. Cho said.

South Korea was ranked the world’s No. 2 des­ti­na­tion for global con­gresses hosted in 2015, im­prov­ing on its fourth place fin­ish in the prior year, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est In­ter­na­tional Meet­ings Statis­tics Re­port re­leased by the Union of In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tions (UIA) in June. South Korea hosted 891 meet­ings, up 40% from 636 in 2014, to cor­ner a 7.5% share in the world’s meet­ings in­dus­try.

Seoul, the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, also boosted its long- stand­ing top-five UIA city rank­ing, ris­ing from fifth to third place with 494 meet­ings held in 2015; nearly dou­bling the 249 meet­ings hosted in 2014.

Like­wise, Busan, South Korea’s sec­ond-largest city, at­tained a global city rank­ing of 11 with 150 meet­ings, while renowned United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UNESCO) World Heritage re­sort is­land Jeju ac­counted for 112 of the year’s meet­ings, achiev­ing a global city rank­ing of 19.

The lat­est UIA rank­ings high­light South Korea’s as­cent in the global MICE stage since the gov­ern­ment in 2009 iden­ti­fied the in­dus­try as one of the economy’s new growth en­gines. Prior to that, South Korea placed 12th in the 2008 UIA re­port.

“Korea’s di­ver­sity of shop­ping, gourmet cui­sine, and tourist des­ti­na­tions make it a fa­vor­able des­ti­na­tion for both busi­ness and plea­sure. Korea is now a mod­ern­ized dy­namic na­tion that still main­tains its tra­di­tional cul­ture,” Ms. Cho said.

South Korea is par­tic­u­larly set­ting its sights on the in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions and in­cen­tives mar­ket, she added, not­ing that the ex­pen­di­tures of in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants are higher by $ 3,100 — or 1.8 times greater — than the spend­ing of a reg­u­lar tourist.

The climb to the big leagues has not been a walk in the park. KTO had to put up with what it called a “sen­sa­tion­al­ized” dis­play of na­tional is­sues that cast doubts on its abil­ity to guar­an­tee the safety and suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of big in­ter­na­tional events.

“As an ex­am­ple, news cov­er­age of the North- South Korean con­flict and the re­cent [Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­tory Syn­drome] epi­demic is as­sumed to have af­fected the num­ber of events planned in South Korea; how­ever, in re­al­ity, no mas­sive with­drawal nor de­crease on the MICE events lined up for this year was seen in the re­cent UIA statis­tics,” Ms. Cho said.

De­spite its suc­cess, South Korea sees a tremen­dous up­side for growth as a MICE des­ti­na­tion. Of the 14 mil­lion inbound tourists that vis­ited the coun­try in 2014, a rough es­ti­mate is that 5% of them were re­lated to the MICE in­dus­try, Ms. Cho said.

“With Sam­sung, Hyundai, and LG be­com­ing house­hold names, Korea is gain­ing more at­ten­tion from the science and tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try. Their tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs high­light Korea’s great pool of in­dus­try in­no­va­tors and lead­ers who are very much will­ing to ad­dress the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity through congress and sci­en­tific con­ven­tions in the coun­try,” Ms. Cho said.

While China cur­rently dom­i­nates South Korea’s in­cen­tives mar­ket, South Korea is mak­ing an ag­gres­sive push to lure other coun­tries in or­der to be­come a true global hub for MICE.

South­east Asia, a mar­ket of ap­prox­i­mately 600 mil­lion peo­ple, holds a lot of prom­ise for South Korea’s MICE in­dus­try. The Philip­pines, the re­gion’s sec­ond fastest-grow­ing economy be­hind China, is be­ing wooed to take ad­van­tage of South Korea’s be­ing one of the near­est win­ter des­ti­na­tions and its no-Visa travel pol­icy to Jeju Is­land.

The re­gional pow­er­house is hold­ing road shows in Lon­don and New York — the head­quar­ters of the world’s big­gest cor­po­ra­tions and or­ga­ni­za­tions — to bring ma­jor in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences to its ul­tra­mod­ern MICE fa­cil­i­ties, she said.

BE­YOND K-WAVE

But for South Korea, there is more to it as a MICE des­ti­na­tion apart from K-Wave. With a world-class in­ter­na­tional air­port in In­cheon as the main gate­way, the Asian gi­ant boasts of ma­jor con­ven­tion cen­ters and unique fa­cil­i­ties to serve the world’s big­gest gath­er­ings.

Seoul is home to the Coex Con­ven­tion & Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­ter, South Korea’s premier events venue. Four spe­cialised ex­hi­bi­tion halls can be di­vided into 12 sep­a­rate rooms, and in­clude a con­ven­tion hall with space for up to 7,000 peo­ple. It also boasts of 54 meet­ing rooms and of­fice space equipped with state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties and a cut­ting edge build­ing man­age­ment sys­tem.

Coex has evolved into a lead­ing cul­ture-busi­ness plat­form, with the open­ing of the Coex Mall, Asia’s largest un­der­ground shop­ping cen­ter, in 2014 and SM Town, the multi- pur­pose cul­tural space of South Korean firm S. M. En­ter­tain­ment Co. Ltd., last year. There are roughly 7,500 ho­tel rooms strate­gi­cally lo­cated within five kilo­me­ters of the com­plex.

Apart from Seoul, South Korea has sev­eral other promis­ing MICE des­ti­na­tions, such as In­cheon, Gyeonggi, Dae­jeon, Gang­won, Gwangju, Daegu, Gyeong­nam, Busan, Gyeongju, and Jeju — ev­ery city be­ing de­vel­oped to ac­com­mo­date small- to large-scale meet­ings and events.

These cities are try­ing to pro­mote their own in­di­vid­ual spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics to host a cer­tain field con­fi­dently, Ms. Cho said. For ex­am­ple, Daegu — lo­cated at the mid­dle of South Korea — projects it­self as an ecofriendl­y MICE des­ti­na­tion and has been host­ing sev­eral con­fer­ences on Earth con­ser­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity. On the other hand, Busan — South Korea’s largest port city — has be­come a venue of var­i­ous ma­rine, mar­itime, and en­gi­neer­ing- re­lated sem­i­nars and work­shops.

In­cheon has started to make its mark in the MICE in­dus­try. Lo­cated at its fu­tur­is­tic in­ter­na­tional busi­ness district, Songdo Con­ven­sia hosted the Korea MICE Expo, which brought to­gether over 3,000 del­e­gates in­clud­ing 250 do­mes­tic sell­ers and a record 245 buy­ers, 170 of which hailed from over­seas, par­tic­u­larly China and South­east Asia.

Gang­won, the top tourist des­ti­na­tion for lo­cals, is gear­ing up to be one of South Korea’s big­gest tourist des­ti­na­tions after it fin­ishes host­ing the 2018 Win­ter Olympics in Pyeongchan­g. The gov­ern­ment is build­ing sev­eral big fa­cil­i­ties to ac­com­mo­date the ma­jor sport­ing events and most of them will be turned into con­ven­tion cen­ters after the spec­ta­cle.

South Korea un­der­stands that mak­ing each trip per­sonal is equally im­por­tant for their MICE guests. With full as­sis­tance from the gov­ern­ment, lo­cal gov­ern­ing bod­ies, and the pri­vate sec­tor, MICE groups are pro­vided with com­pli­men­tary city tours for del­e­gates, air­port welcome mes­sages, cus­tom­ized event ban­ners and sou­venirs, onsite cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence booths, and many other en­hance­ments.

Asia has seen its in­flu­ence grow in the in­ter­na­tional stage in re­cent years and South Korea’s trans­for­ma­tion into a MICE pow­er­house is a tes­ta­ment to that. The hal­lyu phe­nom­e­non is bring­ing the world to the Land of the Morn­ing Calm, as South Korea of­fers some­thing dis­tinct yet still univer­sal for the global au­di­ence: a cul­tural abun­dance and fluid co- ex­is­tence of both tra­di­tion and moder­nity.

THE KOREA MICE EXPO 2016 (R) brought to­gether over 3,000 del­e­gates in­clud­ing 250 do­mes­tic sell­ers and a record 245 buy­ers, 170 of which hailed from over­seas, par­tic­u­larly China and South­east Asia. SOUTH KOREA’s tallest build­ing, the North­east Asia...

EM­PLOY­EES of China’s The Au­rance Group en­joy chicken and beer, a Korean drink­ing sta­ple pop­u­lar­ized by the drama My Love From The Star, at the Wolmi Is­land. TOURISTS take part in tra­di­tional Korean food, or han­sik, ex­hi­bi­tion and classes at the...

HEE JIN CHO, di­rec­tor of MICE Pro­mo­tion Team, talks about South Korea’s ef­fort to boost the MICE in­dus­try.

THE 2018 PYEONGCHAN­G HOUSE will serve as a fo­cal point for the pub­lic show­ing of the prepa­ra­tion for the Win­ter Olympic Games.

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