The Singapore business event market has gained importance among Busan suppliers following SilkAirâ€™s May 1 commencement of four-times-weekly direct flights between the city-state and the coastal Korean city.
Prior to this, travellers from Singapore had to fly to Seoul for onward air connection to Busan, or journey on by bus or rapid train service.
According to Sehoon Choi, junior manager with Busan Tourism Organizationâ€™s Convention Bureau, Singapore was never a key source market due to accessibility limitation. Instead, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand were top Asian producers due to ease of access from these countries.
â€śThere were 39,173 visitors from Singapore to Busan in 2018, which is about 16.8 per cent of total Singapore arrivals to South Korea,â€ť said Choi.
â€śThat was a 53 per cent increase over 2017 numbers. But with the new direct access provided by SilkAir, we expect a much stronger growth rate this year,â€ť he said.
Choi referenced Malaysia as a case in point. â€śAfter a direct flight was launched (by AirAsia X) between Malaysia and Busan in 2013, arrivals rose steadily. Malaysia is now one of our main markets for incentive programmes and corporate meetings,â€ť he said.
He added that most events coming out of Singapore would be incentive programmes and corporate meetings due to the strong presence of MNCs in the city-state. However, Busan Tourism Organization is also keen to attract international conventions related to Busan’s seven strategic industries such as marine, intelligent services and finance.
The Lion Cityâ€™s appeal as a MICE source market would improve further with Jeju Airâ€™s new direct Singapore-Busan service come July, noted Choi.
Also anticipating healthy demand from Singapore on the wings of SilkAir is Jin Hee Kim, sales manager, Crown Harbour Hotel Busan.
â€śWe rarely get corporate groups from Singapore, with most of our corporate business coming from Thailand. But we believe the new SilkAir access will change things,â€ť remarked Kim.
James Kang, managing director with MEPS International, a Seoul-based DMC and PCO, said the SilkAir service would allow his agency to promote Busan as an entry point for a wider business event programme in South Korea, but noted that higher-end groups would still prefer to fly with main flag carriers.