• Little Jeju, big dreams

    Little Jeju, big dreams

    Category: Country report
    Issues: April 2012

    Jeju Island is getting more international events, but there is still
    much work to be done before it can become a world-class MICE
    destination. Karen Yue reports

    Jeju Island
    Photo courtesy of Korea Tourism

    Jeju province, once a volcanic island, is just slightly more than twice the size of South Korea’s capital of Seoul. But the province has big dreams of becoming a global MICE city.

    The South Korean central government in 2010 tasked Jeju Island to develop itself as an international MICE destination, and since then, the island has hosted a number of notable events such as the 10,000-pax China Baozhen Group incentive and 8,000-pax Amway (South) Korea incentive.

    This year, the island will welcome the 4,000-pax Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in July and the 10,000-pax World Conservation Congress in September.

    Several large events have also been confirmed for the next few years, including the World Congress of the European Hair Research Society in 2014 (1,000 delegates), a gathering of the World Aquaculture Society in 2015 (4,000 delegates) and the International Congress on Shoulder and Elbow Surgery in 2016 (1,500 delegates).

    Song Min-Young, CEO of MNC Marketing & Communications, which has offices in Seoul and Jeju and organises MICE events, said incentives and international meetings had grown the fastest in Jeju, compared to conventions and exhibitions.

    “Apart from the domestic market, China and Taiwan are our strongest overseas sources, especially for incentives,” Song said, citing close proximity and available direct flights as reasons.

    Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO) president, Yang Young-Keun, noted that Jeju had seen improvements in its UIA ranking of top meetings destinations.

    Jeju hosted 27 events in 2005, placing it in the 75th spot in UIA’s ranking of global meetings destinations and 11th in Asia. In 2010, the destination welcomed 67 events, enabling it to climb up the charts to 27th spot globally and seventh in Asia.

    “Competition in the tourism industry is very severe today. If we don’t evolve, we will lose out, as almost every city has identified MICE as a key tourism focus,” Yang added.

    in the tourism industry is very severe today. If we don’t evolve, we
    will lose out, as almost every city has identified MICE as a key tourism

    Yang Young-Keun
    Jeju Tourism Organization

    To evolve and gain a sharper edge in the MICE race, Jeju wants to be as popular with MICE buyers as it already is with the leisure segment. Shim Jeong-Bo, executive vice president for marketing, Korea Tourism Organization, believes that Jeju’s hosting of the World Conservation Congress will give the destination exactly that edge.

    Shim said: “The congress will give Jeju the opportunity to raise its popularity as a green destination. It is already loved by honeymooners who are drawn to the Jeju Olle walking trails. Through the congress, more will know about the walking trails and other nature attractions.”

    But for Jeju to truly grow its MICE appeal among international buyers, trade players say more MICE-friendly hotels and venues, direct international flight access and higher MICE practitioner standards are needed.

    JTO’s Yang said the resort island has 12,000 rooms in tourist hotels, motels and inns, and 35,000 rooms in bed-and-breakfast establishments.

    “With Jeju stepping up destination promotions and welcoming an increasing number of visitors, more hotel rooms are needed. And Jeju’s biggest problem today is the lack of five-star hotels, especially those of international brands. The shortage of five-star hotel rooms has pushed room rates up. Today, the rate for a five-star hotel room here is about US$300 per night,” said Yang.

    Yang is also concerned that Jeju’s main convention centre, ICC Jeju, is located in Seogwipo City, which leaves Jeju City short of a dedicated MICE facility. Conventions in Jeju City are supported by hotels with function rooms. Although Jeju measures 73km from east to west and 41km from north to south, it takes 80 minutes on days of clear weather and traffic to travel from Jeju City to Seogwipo City.

    “Jeju City needs at least 15,000 hotel rooms and a convention centre that can accommodate at least 10,000 delegates. It also needs also a 1,000-room hotel that can cater to mega MICE groups,” he said.

    Guk Moon-Gyeong, MICE producer of Jeju-based PCO WinPlusWin, said the island’s existing infrastructure cannot support mega events. “Most of our clients are drawn to Seoul and Busan, where there are facilities and logistic support for large events, as well as shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment,” said Guk, who also identified limited direct international air access as a stumbling block for Jeju’s MICE ambition.

    Jeju International Airport offers mostly flights to other parts of South Korea and selected cities in China, Japan and Taiwan.

    “We hope these limitations will be resolved soon, as we hope to grow our source markets, especially those of Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. We currently do a lot of MICE business from China. Most of them are branch offices of South Korean companies. Our groups typically range from 200 pax to 1,000.”

    Tatana Souckova, owner of Czech Republic’s Sandra Travel, who participated in the Jeju International Green MICE Week, told TTGmice that stronger destination marketing could get travellers excited over Jeju and soften the scare of the long flight.

    “To get from Prague (capital of Czech Republic) to Jeju, one could fly via Seoul, or take the Vienna-Dubai-Seoul-Jeju route. Not every traveller can tolerate the journey, but those who do will see that Jeju has much to offer. Many of my incentive clients have visited this part of Asia, often combining Seoul with Fukuoka (Japan) or Taipei. Jeju can be combined with these destinations too.”

    As well, Jeju’s shortage of MICE talent was an obstacle in the destination’s quest to become a world-class MICE city, said Jang Sung-soo, director and professor at Jeju National University’s Tourism & Leisure Education Centre.

    Jang said: “There are only about 150 PCOs in Jeju, and there is a lack of experienced MICE practitioners to staff these PCOs. Fortunately, the South Korean government recognises this weakness and has invested US$2 million per year over the last two to three years on the university’s MICE programme. We have 600 students to date.”