A brighter incentive glow

More Asian MICE groups are starting to fall in love with Jeju, but the lack of direct air access can hinder growth, writes Xinyi Liang-Pholsena

Scenic Jeju, long loved for its numerous natural earth formations, is seeing more corporate incentive interest thanks to increased exposure in films

Bolstered by the numerous Korean drama serials that had been filmed on the island and subsequently building up a substantial interest in the destination from the leisure outbound market in Asia, Jeju now sees ripe opportunities in leveraging the Hallyu (Korean wave) fame to become the region’s incentive hot spot too.

While China and Japan make up the biggest MICE markets for Jeju, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia are currently “growing strong”, according to Jeju Convention & Visitors Bureau (JCVB) marketing manager, Sean Shin. He also anticipates the recent launch of daily direct flights (running through May 2015) between Bangkok and Jeju by Eastar Jet, a Korean LCC, will further whet the outbound incentive appetite from Thailand.

South-east Asia has since been identified as an important market for JCVB. “There is a craze for popular Korean cultures in many parts of South-east Asia…Also, unique venues will make incentive tours in Jeju more (memorable) with special events and theme parties. These efforts will enable us to make inroads into South-east Asian markets.

“We are also targeting the Muslim market in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East, and have invested in Muslim offerings in hotels and restaurants. So far, we’re seeing a 10 per cent growth year-on-year for the Middle East market,” he added.

Having witnessed strong leisure demand for South Korea, Asian travel companies are also keen to grow outbound meeting and incentive interest to the destination, with Jeju a strong favourite for MICE groups.

Sophiya Travel & Tours Cambodia’s director of tour development, Leng Pagna, said: “We are getting a lot of enquiries for South Korea for our 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.”

Outbound MICE groups to South Korea at Sophiya are mostly incentives from the Cambodian agriculture and association sectors, averaging around 30-35 pax who spend six days in Seoul, Jeju, Nami Island and Sorak Mountain, added Leng.

Sharing similar sentiments, Christina Pakpahan, director of Okdo Tour & Travel Service in Medan, said: “Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are close (to Indonesia) and already done, so we are looking for farther destinations 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 50-60 pax from the insurance and government sectors, spending five days to a week combining meetings and incentives in Korean destinations like Jeju, Seoul and Busan.

Urging the 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 (KTO) and direct flights launched to Indonesia, especially as Medan now has a new airport. As there are no direct flights to South Korea, we have to transit in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.”

Likewise, Richard Suh, president of Seoul-based Bosuk Tours, which has already built up a stable incentive demand from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to Jeju, is now casting his sights on new markets like Istanbul and Delhi – two cities where KTO has recently set up branch offices – to tie in with the NTO’s broader outreach efforts.

In particular, Jeju’s visa-free status is what Suh leverages when it comes to courting incentive groups from overseas. “Jeju is particularly favoured by Indian incentive groups as they do not need a visa to visit, and most usually stay for two nights,” he said.

However, a lack of direct flights and seat inventory are what hamper Suh’s efforts to promote Jeju to the Indian market. “Indian groups usually transit via Hong Kong but Hong Kong (travel consultants) block seats so it’s sometimes difficult for Indians (to get seats),” he shared. “I’d urge for more direct flights to Jeju to attract the Indian markets, plus easier visa access overall to South Korea.”

Need to know

Four Seasons Seoul joins city’s line-up of top-end properties

Following the surge of high-end hotels like Conrad Seoul, JW Marriott Seoul Dongdaemun Square and W Seoul Walkerhill in recent years, next to rise up on the city’s luxury scene is Four Seasons Seoul come May 2015. Marking Four Season’s foray into South Korea, the hotel will be housed in a 25-storey building in Sejongro Square in Seoul’s central business district. The 317-key luxury property will boast high-end restaurants, a speakeasy bar, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a saltwater pool, plus glamorous spaces for events and meetings.

Gangnam welcomes Aloft

Aloft Seoul Gangnam, which opened its doors on October 1, features 188 urban-inspired rooms and suites, each bearing in-room amenities such as platform beds with plush bedding, walk-in showers with custom amenities by Bliss Spa, plug-n-play docking stations, 42” LCD TVs and complimentary Internet access.

The hotel offers 64m2 of meeting space, including three versatile meeting rooms that can seat up to 48 pax in a theater-style setting.

Recreational spaces include the 24-hour grab-and-go beverage area, Re:fuel by Aloft; Nook, the all-day dining restaurant; the W XYZ bar; and the Re:chargeSM fitness centre.

Located on Yeongdong-daero in Gangnam, the hotel allows for easy access to the COEX Convention and Exhibition Center, as well as the office district in Samsung-dong. For more information, visit www.alofthotels.com/seoulgangam.

Making drama in Jeju

Moong Chee Event Tour is offering the Making Drama Programme which enables groups to bond while accomplishing missions at Jeju’s Locadio World.

Participants can transform into their favourite Korean film hero or heroine and reenact famous scenes at various film sets of different time periods and historical backgrounds. At the same time, participants will be challenged to accomplish team missions within a set time frame. Tasks include puzzle challenges, yunnori (a traditional game played by throwing sticks), Golden Bell of the Joseon Period and the likes.

The winner will then be announced and awarded at the end of these fun activities.

Visit www.moongchee.com or call (82-64) 724-6887 for programme details.

Go shopping

Korean retail giant Lotte Group in October launched the completed commercial retail buildings on the lower part of Lotte World Tower & Lotte World Mall, located in Songpa-gu, Seoul.

Lotte World Mall, an 11-storey commercial building, houses about 1,000 local and global stores across 429,000m2 of space, including a cinema, a duty-free shop, an aquarium, a food court and a space dedicated to Hallyu.

The adjacent Lotte World Tower, currently under construction, is set to become the country’s tallest building at 123 floors when it opens in October 2016. The uppermost part (levels 120-123) of Lotte World Tower will serve as an observatory while levels 117 to 119 will be home to an art gallery. A hotel, offices and a medical centre are also expected to be part of its amenities.

VietJet links Hanoi and Danang to Seoul

Vietnamese LCC VietJet in July launched daily flights from Hanoi and Danang respectively to Seoul, adding the city to its list of international destinations that includes Singapore and Bangkok.

From Hanoi, flights depart Noi Bai International Airport at 01.45, while flights take off from Da Nang International Airport at 02.00. Both flights leave Incheon at 11.05.

The airline expects to serve 2,520 passengers per week on the new route, which is operated under a partnership with South Korea’s Seyou Corporation.

Moonlight tour of Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is said to be the most traditional and authentic among Seoul’s five grand palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty, and a moonlight tour makes one of the best ways to take in the beauty and grandeur of this architectural gem.

Ideal for MICE groups, this unique experience enables participants to stroll selected sights in the palace, including the Injeongjeon Hall, the venue for royal ceremonies; Nakseonjae, the king’s compound; and Yeongyeongdang, a performing stage with seats, Korean tea and traditional snacks for the audience.

As the tour takes place on two days around the full moon period during April to May and September to November, tickets are limited to 100 pax per tour.

More information is available at http://eng.cdg.go.kr.

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