Old soul, new Seoul

Seoul responds to the rise in demand for experiential activities by crafting unique ways to appreciate a city rich in heritage and pop culture.

Seoul has the advantage of being an ancient city, whose history goes back to 18BC, as well as a modern global city, thanks to an emergence of landmarks that have gained worldwide attention for their outstanding architectural design, such as Lotte World Tower – a 123-floor skyscraper – and Dongdaemun Design Plaza – designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid.

For the well-travelled, Seoul is loved for its elaborate ancient palaces, shopping and food, and for being South Korea’s K-pop capital.

To ensure Seoul remains top of mind among planners, especially those crafting repeat events in the South Korean capital, and to attract event delegates who increasingly favour experiential activities, the Seoul Convention Bureau (SCB) has developed new and unique ways to experience what the destination has been gifted with.

Jin Hyeok Park, SCB’s director, pointed to the 2017 Special Support programme as an example.

It offered financial subsidies for groups that subscribed to any of five experiential programmes – Seoullo 7017 Walking Tour, Han River Cycling Tour, Seoul Trekking Excursion, Hallyu Makeup Experience, and K-Pop Dance Experience.

Park said: “Because of our promotions, the experience programmes have been used by several corporate incentive groups. One of them was a group of 178 people from Taiwan’s Vina Chang Tai Underwear Co who participated in a Seoullo 7017 Walking Tour on July 25. We sponsored meals and refreshments.

“And on April 26, we had a group of 100 participants from AXA Indonesia that chose the Han River Cycling Tour with Tarreungyi, Seoul’s Public Bike rental programme, in which Seoul’s mayor Park Won Soon partook. Participants very much enjoyed this particular occasion.”

The 2017 Special Support programme has been extended into 2018, although details on benefits are not available at press time in early-March.

Beyond the programme, SCB has demonstrated a willingness to pull out all stops to make unique destination experiences possible for private event groups.

In May 2016 when the city welcomed its biggest incentive group ever – 8,000 participants from the healthcare unit of the China-based Zhongmai Group, Joy Main Science & Technology – the bureau arranged an unusual programme that featured two special dinners and concerts by the Han River.

Park reminisced: “The group was able to enjoy samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) while the concerts featured popular Korean singers who sang the soundtrack of Descendants of the Sun, a Korean drama that enjoyed immense popularity in China.”

The bureau’s involvement was particularly critical in this example, as “cooking anything (outdoors) near the Han River is illegal for safety reasons”, revealed Park, who added that approval was eventually obtained for the use of gas stoves instead of fire.

In yet another example, SCB brought an event group down to Cheonggyecheon stream, a historical waterway in the heart of the city, where delegates penned their deepest wishes on paper, folded it into an origami boat, and set it adrift in hopes of fulfilment.

Park believes that pushing experiential activities for corporate groups allows the bureau to not only promote the local culture but also raise awareness of the Seoul City brand.

Supporting SCB’s experiential programme push is the Team Building with Seoul booklet, available both in print and online, which lists fun, customisable teambuilding ideas.

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