Breaking into international waters

Traditionally reliant on domestic demand, Jeju Island’s business events players are rolling out new strategies to woo incentive and teambuilding groups from around the world

Beloved as South Korea’s resort town, Jeju Island has built its business events foundations on strong domestic demand; and while the destination receives a sizeable share of international leisure travellers, more operators on the island have recently begun to actively court foreign incentive and teambuilding groups.

This push comes after the opening of integrated resort Jeju Shinhwa World in February 2018.

East coast of Jeju Island

The project has brought, and will continue to bring, a host of large-scale accommodation options such as Jeju Shinhwa World Landing Resort with 615 keys; Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort currently with 486 rooms (572 when fully opened this year); and 342 serviced suites at Somerset Jeju Shinhwa World. Also launched within the resort is Jeju’s largest convention venue – the Landing Convention Centre.

A medley of upcoming hotel openings this year and next is expected to give Jeju an additional boost. These include the 533-room Shinhwa Hotel & Resort, Jeju Shinhwa World Four Seasons Resort & Spa with 240 keys, as well as Grand Hyatt Jeju with 1,600 rooms and around 1,200m2 of meeting space.

“Jeju has been one of Asia’s top incentive destinations, and Jeju Shinhwa World is a new attraction that has helped us gain more interest. In December 2019, we are looking forward to the opening of the Grand Hyatt Jeju, which will focus on attracting groups with its casino and MICE facilities,” said Kim Jin-Bae, secretary general of Jeju Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

Kim explained that Jeju CVB has begun its push into markets around Asia – such as China and Japan – through targeted support schemes. For example, Chinese incentive groups of more than 100 pax staying on the island for at least one night can enjoy a subsidy of 10,000 won (US$8.80) per attendee.

The strategy differs for other Asian markets, which enjoy support not just for incentive tours, but also for hosting international conventions and meetings. Under this programme, other Asian incentive groups of more than 30 overseas participants staying at least one night are also eligible to receive a 10,000 won subsidy per attendee.

To step up outreach in Asia, Jeju CVB participated in IT&CM China in March with a standalone pavilion and a delegation of travel agencies and activity operators.

Encouraged by Jeju CVB’s efforts, operators in Jeju have also expanded their sights, and have focused on the potential of corporate groups from around Asia.

Kang Hyejin, senior staff of travel agency Moong Chee, shared: “Our company has been around for 29 years, but we’ve only catered to domestic groups. Now, we are beginning to expand and bring in groups from around Asia. We are starting with China first by attending trade shows like IT&CM China and learning Mandarin.”

As Moong Chee has seen increasing demand for activities that feature Jeju’s culture and local lifestyle – such as trekking, traditional medicine preparation and farming – it introduced the Batdam Festival in 2015 to showcase Jeju’s rich farmlands and harvests, said Kang.

Similarly, luxury yacht operator Grande Bleu Yacht Tour has changed one of its routes to feature a lesser-known natural attraction, the Jusangjeolli Cliffs, after receiving more incentive groups for its private cruises.

“We have hosted many large corporations, companies and universities from different industries, both Korean and international. About 88 per cent of our incentives business comes from Korean companies, but we would like to grow our international market, which is why we have started exhibiting at foreign trade shows like IT&CM China,” explained Jessica Her, general manager of Grande Bleu Yacht Tour.

To reach its top international source markets, which include Malaysia and Singapore, Grande Bleu Yacht Tour plans to participate in more tradeshows in the region.

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