Building a legacy

National and city-level authorities are all pitching in to ensure the Rotary International Convention is a success; Bongeunsa temple in Gangnam, Seoul pictured

South Korea is determined to be a superb host for this month’s Rotary congress, an event that will not only benefit the country’s tourism sector, but also key industries. Rebecca Elliott reports

Later this month more than 55,000 delegates from over 200 nations will descend upon Seoul for the 107th Rotary International Convention.

Held over five days on an annual basis, the convention brings together Rotary members from across the globe to exchange knowledge through an integrated programme of speaker presentations, breakout sessions and an extensive social programme.

Scheduled for May 28 to June 1, the event will be held in the country’s largest convention centre, KINTEX, and will be the second edition hosted in the South Korean capital. Seoul played host for the first time in 1989, and that event drew 38,878 delegates.

According to research conducted by the Korea Institute of Conventions & Exhibition Management in 2012, the 2016 edition is expected to generate in excess of US$300 million for the South Korean economy.

When asked how South Korea managed to score the massive event, Haesook Ma, assistant manager of the convention team at the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO), told TTGmice that it was a combination of active and “enthusiastic” Rotarians in the country and the support provided by the MICE bureau and city governments.

Ma revealed that the KTO provided monetary and marketing support during the bidding process, while further financial assistance also came from Gyeonggi Province and Goyang City where the main venue, KINTEX, is located.

Securing the event in 2008 was just the beginning of years of preparation for the convention. Moreover, with the significant level of support provided by the various parties comes an equally significant level of pressure to ensure the event is a roaring success.

“Each city government and convention bureau has now assembled a task force to prepare for this event professionally,” said Ma.

The KTO’s task force is led by the executive director of the Korea MICE Bureau, Keehun Kim, and is comprised of five teams to fulfil the various requirements including public relations, accommodation and tourist information.

The KTO also conducted an extensive delegate boosting programme in 2015 and is expecting at least half of the delegation to come from abroad.

“We’ve supported several Rotary International congresses all over the world including those held in Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Hawaii, Manila, Jaipur, Taiwan, Melbourne and London,” said Ma.

Hosting the 107th Rotary International Convention will do far more than benefit Seoul’s tourism and business events sector. According to the convention’s official website, the gathering will “fully reflect (South) Korea’s recent success and growth as a G20 nation within the international communities as a highly developed IT industrial nation with cultural and historical abundance”.

A focus on industries such as technology, medicine and pharmaceutical has been a key strategy for the country in securing international association conferences. In 2014, the Union of International Associations ranked South Korea fourth in the world for hosting 636 global association events.

“Many are interested in industrial tourism so we try and make the pre- and post-programme (activities) related to their industry. It’s quite attractive for a lot of conferences,” opined Ma.

“We are trying to win larger conferences so we can attract (the attention of) delegates from the US and Europe.”

And there’s little doubt that all eyes in the global MICE industry
will be on South Korea come end May.

{Taking Numbers}


Daehong Kim, president of Holiday Planners


Daehong Kim, president of Holiday Planners, recommends three experiences around the city

Appreciate Seoul’s beauty after sunset

Walk 10 minutes from the Seoul Central Post Office to the Cable Car station for a ride to the top of Namsan Mountain. From the station, another three-minute walk will bring you to N Seoul Tower where you will find a fantastic night view of Seoul at the cafeteria or restaurant.

Go hiking

A 15-minute taxi ride from Seoul’s City Hall will take you to one of the several entrances of the mountain trail of the Bukhansan National Park. If you hike up to the peak, a breathtaking view of the city awaits.

Get a taste of local experiences

Experience Korean culture at the Korean Folk Village in Yongin, 50km south of Seoul. A traditional wedding ceremony show is put up every day. Have lunch at its open-air market place – try jeon (Korean pancake) and makgeolli (Korean rice wine). A free shuttle bus runs between the village and Suwon Station.


Modern meeting venue where ancient chiefs once gathered

Gyeongju, approximately 50km north of Busan, used to be where Silla Kingdom’s leaders used to meet 1,500 years ago.

Today, it is home to South Korea’s newest convention centre, the Gyeongju Hwabaek International Convention Center, or HICO as it is most commonly referred to.

In close proximity to many UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Bulguksa Temple and Yangdong Village, HICO debuted with the hosting of the 7th World Water Forum in April 2015. The event drew approximately 40,000 participants from 170 countries.

Occupying close to 43,000m2 of land, HICO houses a convention hall for 3,500 delegates, an exhibition hall and 12 meeting rooms over five storeys.

Kyla Yeonwoo Joo of HICO said the centre had contributed significantly to the growth of the city’s MICE industry in the past year, hosting over 180 meetings and conventions.

“Gyeongju Convention & Visitors Bureau and HICO (are working together) to attract many more visitors to hold their meetings and events in Gyeongju,” she added.

Joo said attracting conferences from the water and nuclear power fields will be a focus of the bureau’s strategy moving forward. Destination marketing will also leverage on Gyeongju’s rich heritage and its host city status for the World Congress of Organization of World Heritage Cities in 2017.

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