South Korea gains popularity

SOUTH Korea is emerging as a preferred destination for international MICE buyers as they go in search for “newer” destinations for their clients, who are already familiar with South-east Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Dubbing South Korea a “young destination” for MICE groups from the UAE, Anwar Abu Monassar, director of operations at Abu Dhabi-based The Vision Destination Management, said: “We have already seen some movement from the leisure and business markets to South Korea, but it’s still missing from the MICE side.

“The traditional destinations in Asia are Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong, so we see potential in South Korea. It’s coming without a base but we are confident it will grow,” he added.

Having recorded strong leisure demand for South Korea, Asian travel companies, on the other hand, are now keen to grow outbound meeting and incentive interest to the destination too.

Sophiya Travel & Tours Cambodia’s director of tour development, Leng Pagna, said: “We are getting a lot of enquiries for South Korea from our MICE and corporate clients in Cambodia; they have already been to nearby countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, so South Korea is viewed as a newer destination, just like Taiwan and the US.”

Most of Sophiya’s outbound MICE groups to South Korea are incentives from the Cambodian agriculture and association sectors, averaging around 30 to 35 pax who spend six days in Seoul, Jeju, Nami Island and Sorak Mountain, added Leng.

Sharing similar sentiments, Christina Pakpahan, director of Medan-based Okdo Tour & Travel Service, said: “Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are close (to Indonesia) and already done, so we are looking for further options in Asia-Pacific like South Korea and Australia. While the Indonesian leisure outbound market is established, MICE traffic to South Korea is growing at about eight to 10 per cent.”

According to Pakpahan, her MICE groups average around 50 to 60 pax from the insurance and government sectors, spending five days to a week combining meetings and incentives in Jeju, Seoul and Busan.

Urging the South Korean authorities to build on the rising wave of interest from Indonesian MICE market, Pakpahan remarked: “We would like to see more roadshows by Korea Tourism Organization and direct (air links with) Indonesia, especially as Medan now has a new airport. Without direct flights to South Korea, we have to transit in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.”

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