busan_south korea
Photo credit: Kongres Magazine
Photo credit: KTO

The outlook for South Korea is quite positive as planners learn more about the country, its political stability, its strong economy, its sophisticated infrastructure, and it’s unique culture. 

Q: Which are Koreas top factors influencing meeting location for business travel by European buyers?

Korea has over 30 years of experience in organizing events, from small ones to global events like the 1988 Summer Olympics, 2002 World Cup and 2010 G20 summit. In February 2018, Korea welcomed more than 3,000 athletes and national team officials during the successfully held Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. Korea offers excellent manpower. The on-site staff will make sure that the meeting will run smoothly and will cater to the participants and organizers needs during the event. Korea is easily accessible from many countries in Europe and has one of the best airports in the world: Incheon International Airport. Furthermore, participants from numerous countries can entry visa-free for up to 90 days. Korea is an industrial country with several industries ranking number1 in global competitiveness. A few examples are a semiconductor, display, ICT, auto parts, chemicals and steel industries. With almost 900+accommodations, unique venues and several support programs it is an ideal place for different kinds of meetings.

Q: How do you see Korea’s meetings industry scene?

Korea ranked top 1 on the UIA International Meetings Associations. Based on the UIA Statistics, Korea’s meeting count has grown from 891 in 2015 to 997 in 2016, reflecting an 11.89% increase over the previous year. On the other hand, Korea has maintained its rank in the 13th place on the latest ICCA Country rankings, with 279 meetings hosted in 2017 – surpassing other advanced countries such as Switzerland and Norway.

More so, the meetings industry in Korea is expected to flourish, especially after the success of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the inter-Korean summit, and the growing (phenomenal) interest in Hallyu, Korean Wave. In addition, the Korean government continues to support strongly the MICE sector, thereby increasing budget allocation to improve infrastructure and develop programs that would enhance the experience of MICE delegates. With almost 900+accommodations, unique venues and several support programs it is an ideal place for different kinds of meetings.

Q: What kind of trends do you think we will see in the meetings industry and events in Korea in the upcoming year?

  • Korea Unique Venue– Event professionals are slowly moving away from convention centers and hotel ballrooms for their gala receptions and are considering unconventional meeting spaces instead. As a result, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (MCST) launched the Korea Unique Venue, a new brand composed of selected venues recognized for their special characteristics, usability, and willingness to host international business events. Click here for a complete list of Unique Venues in Korea (link)
  • Experiential Programs– Experience programs are on the rise. MICE delegates seek activities that allow them to engage with local residents, contribute to the community, and at the same time, enjoy the authentic Korean culture.
  • Hallyu meets MICE– the phenomenal rise of Hallyu (Korean Wave) across the world has led to the creation of new programs for MICE groups. K-pop and Korean drama have a big influence on choosing a destination as well. Take for example, in 2016, Aurance (China) had a party with a Chimaek (Chicken and Korean beer ‘maekju’) as a result of the huge popularity of the drama, You Who Came From the Stars. In addition, the group chose Incheon city as it was featured prominently in the series as well. New Hallyu experience centers such as the Running Man Thematic Center are being established as well. In response to the increasing demand for Hallyu contents, we’ve updated our Incentive Travel and Corporate meetings support program by offering exclusive K-pop concerts or invitation of K-Stars to programs.
  • Meetings Technology – Korea is one of the world’s most advanced countries in terms of technology. In fact, according to the latest Bloomberg Innovative Index, Korea is the most innovative country for the 5thconsecutive year since 2014. Hybrid meetings and the use and introduction of new devices (ex. VR/AR/etc) are prevalent in the local meetings industry. Through these technologies, delegates who are physically absent from the convention are enabled to participate in the event. Korea’s quick internet connection (which is already using 5G) makes it very easy to utilize these new technologies. In addition, these meeting technologies are also being used to offer a richer and more unique learning experience, increasing attendees’ engagement.
Photo credit: KTO

Q: Tell us something that might surprise meeting planners about your destination?

Korea has a lot of new experiences to offer, especially to European buyers:

  • Trend destination Korea: Fashion, Design, and Cosmetics.
  • Midnight shopping
  • 12 UNESCO heritage sites on 100,210 km²
  • Sharing is caring: Experience the Korean food culture, where delegates will have an unforgettable experience of connection.
  • Amazing incentive tour programs and industrial tour programs.
  • Another strong point of Korea is its cleanness and safety.
  • Europeans might be surprised by the in-detail service of the on-site staff in Korea.
  • The newest high-tech inventions and IT possibilities will surprise the meeting planners as well as the free & fast Wi-Fi connections almost everywhere.
Photo credit: Kongres Magazine

Q: How is the value for money for European planners?

Korea offers government support programs for MICE planners. For incentive tours and company meetings, groups of ten or more people can benefit from Korean souvenirs for all participants, from a set of chopsticks to a traditional Korean fan to various bags. For groups of between 50 and 499 participants, the KMB will sponsor either a cultural performance, entry to a tourist attraction, cultural activities, and experiences, or a welcome ceremony at the airport. With more than 500 participants, two of these offers are available.

Depending on the number of participants, support for international congresses will also take place in four stages: For events arranged by international organizations, support will be available for groups of 50 or more. From a number of participants of more than 100 persons and a travel time of at least three days, international groups can generally apply for support. In both levels, support can also be provided at banquets, cultural programs, tours, and performances. Premium support is available from a group size of more than 1,000 participants. Services include a concierge desk at Incheon International Airport, as well as pre and post tours.

Both incentives and congresses include a free pre-arranged sightseeing tour with the appropriate qualification. Tailor-made support is also available for all MICE events from 3,000 guests. This includes an exclusive entry desk at the airport.

Q: Like in leisure tourism, in the coming years experiences are becoming increasingly important in the MICE industry. MICE travelers demand more added value from their MICE events. How is Korea enriching experiences and activities?

Korea has a wide range of activities available for meeting delegates. In the case of International Conventions, through our subvention program, eligible groups can avail cultural programs and tours, cultural performances (i.e. during reception or assembly), special souvenirs, and a Korea Tourism & Cultural Booth on the event site to assist meeting delegates with their travel needs. Apart from this, KTO has also started providing a subsidy for ‘Participants & Accompanying Persons Tour Program’, enabling a MICE delegate’s partner/companion to join a free tour program.

Meanwhile, our Incentive Travel and Corporate meetings support program offer MICE delegates free admission to the regular cultural performance, top tourists attractions, and popular group activities. We have also added new support programs including exclusive K-pop concerts in response to the high popularity of Hallyu.

Photo credit: www.visitkorea.or.kr

Q: Through what channels can you get your MICE products on the European market?

KTO’s Europe branch offices work closely together with agencies and keep in contact with MICE buyers of their region. They organize events, road shows, distribute newsletters & press releases to inform about the MICE possibilities in Korea and support the local buyers with contacting partners in Korea and finding the right meeting place. Sales calls and trips.

Q: What could you say about the future of the meetings industry in your region?

The future of meetings and incentives for Korea looks extremely promising. First, the recent government-level negotiations between North and South Koreas are having a positive impact on the perception of South Korea. Second, South Korea remains a leading economy in North East Asia and a major hub for corporate meetings and association conventions. Seoul is definitely a major business hub in Asia.

On the incentive side, planners are usually pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the landscape from the unexpected beach destination like Busan, the pristine lush greenery of Jeju Island, or the high mountains of Gangwon, that offer great winter sports. Not to mention that the Winter Olympics has certainly opened doors in this sector.  Planners begin to think of Korea as a possible destination for their incentive programs. The outlook for South Korea is quite positive as planners learn more about the country, its political stability, its strong economy, its sophisticated infrastructure, and its unique culture.

Q: Can you tell us more about any future investments in tourism in Korea?

Korea is a fast-developing destination for business events and the Korean government is very eager to push its capacity a notch higher every year, delivering best practices in the MICE industry and improving its meeting infrastructure and support programs. An example is the development of more MICE-specialized cities and construction of new hotels and convention centers such as the Suwon Convention Centre, which is expected to be completed in 2019.

Prepared by: Ajda Borak