South Korea: A Rising Force in the Global Meetings Market
  • January 5, 2017
  • SEOUL, KR– In 2016, South Korea hosted one of its largest global events of the year, the Rotary International Seoul Convention, held at the Korea International Exhibition Center (KINTEX) from May 28-June 1. The gathering united 50,000 Rotarians, including 25,000 from overseas. Among many special events and activities, attendees participated in a 3K Peace Walk through downtown Seoul and embarked on tours of Korea’s capital and beyond. Incentive groups have also been discovering the country’s appeal, as the Korea MICE Bureau reports that inbound incentive travel increased in 2016.

    F&D staff was recently invited to explore the meeting virtues of South Korea. Our journey began in Seoul and continued through the cities of Incheon, Busan, Changwon and Daegu.

    SEOUL

    The bustling capital of South Korea is home to a multitude of historical landmarks as well as five-star hotels to serve as a group’s home base, including the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, the brand’s first in the country. Opened in October 2015, the hotel offers 317 luxurious guestrooms, a stunning ballroom and a rooftop garden terrace.

    For more intimate gatherings, we suggest the luxurious Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul. The all-suite hotel’s 50 accommodations have beautiful views of the city, and its rooftop bar/restaurant is perfect for hosting a cocktail party. The Crystal Ballroom on the first floor is decorated with 20,000 pieces of Swarovski crystals and accommodates 300 guests.

    For those seeking a larger venue for meetings and conferences, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is a unique venue that is home to Seoul Fashion Week. Designed by famous female architect Zaha Hadid, the DDP was selected as one of the “Top 52 Places to Visit in 2015” by The New Yodestination newsrk Times. The venue has numerous facilities to host events of various sizes, including an Exhibition Hall.

    Event planners can be assured that there are plenty of group activities in Seoul, including visiting popular attractions such the Myeong-dong shopping district, Hanok village and the Gyeongbokgung Palace (image, above). At the DMZ (Demilitarized) Zone, attendees can get a glimpse of North Korea and actually climb into a hidden tunnel.

    INCHEON

    Incheon is the second largest port city in South Korea and is less than an hour away from the capital city of Seoul. Attendees can fly directly to Seoul Incheon International Airport from major U.S. cities.

    For large meetings in Incheon, the Songdo Convensia (image, left) is the ideal venue, as it houses over 580,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space. Located 15 minutes from the airport, the convention center features five spacious floors that can host more than 2,000 attendees, and accommodates 450 exhibition booths. All meeting rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, voice-operated cameras and LCD projectors.

    There are six upscale hotels within walking distance from the convention center, including the Sheraton Grand Incheon Hotel, which opened in 2008. It is the first non-smoking, LEED-certified in South Korea and has 321 guestrooms. The hotel also features 18,300 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 10 meeting rooms, a banquet hall, outdoor event space and a large pool.

    Group activities that planners can arrange include a tour of the capital city of Seoul; a visit to Songdo Central Park, which was modeled after New York City’s Central Park; and a visit to the largest Chinatown in the country.

    BUSAN

    Busan is the second largest city in South Korea and the world’s fifth busiest seaport by cargo tonnage. The city is 205 miles away from Seoul, which equates to a five-hour drive or a 2.5-hour ride by KTX Express. Served by Gimhae International Airport, the city home to Korea’s largest beach and longest river.

    It is also home to the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center (BEXCO), the second largest convention center in South Korea. It houses over 500,500 sq. ft. of exhibition space, 53 meeting rooms and a stunning 4,002-seat auditorium. BEXCO also offers event planners exclusive access to two offsite venues: the Nurimaru APEC House (accommodates 150 attendees) and the Matrix Yacht (accommodates 70).

    There are approximately 102 restaurants five minutes away from the convention zone, and five five-star hotel properties within 10 minutes, including the Westin Chosun, Busan, which also does the catering for BEXCO and APEC House.

    Group activities include a visit to the beautiful beaches, a cruise with views of the Gwangandaegyo (Diamond Bridge) and a visit to the world’s largest department store, Shinsegae Centrum City.

    CHANGWON

    Changwon is considered to be a business-focused city, with many of the major Korean businesses headquartered here, including LG and Samsung. The city is very close to Busan and Gimhae International Airport.

    The Changwon Exhibition Convention Center (CECO), built in 2005, has the distinction of being the first convention center in the country. It features two exhibition halls, three conference rooms and an outdoor plaza that is over 60,240 sq. ft. CECO is connected to a five-star hotel property (Pullman Ambassador Changwon), multiplex theaters, a food court, a shopping mall and much more. Within 10 minutes of CECO there are over 1,000 hotel rooms, making the city ideal for a large convention.

    Active attendees can enjoy river rafting, paragliding and making kimchi (a traditional fermented Korean side dish). The city is also home to the Changwon International Shooting Range, the largest shooting range in the country.\

    DAEGU

    Daegu is the third largest metropolitan area in Korea, with over 2.5 million residents. Groups can fly into the Daegu International Airport or take a short 2.5-hour train ride from Seoul on the KTX Express. Daegu is considered to be the hottest city in the country (temperature wise) and is focused on being environmentally friendly.

    The city is home to the first and only convention center that uses renewable energy. The Daegu Exhibition & Convention Center (EXCO) saves over $60,000 a year on electricity by using renewable energy installations throughout the facility. Planners have plenty of venue options in this stunning center, which includes a fifth-floor Sky Garden and a VIP Room that contains a Korean-style garden. EXCO also has an auditorium that can accommodate 1,500 attendees.

    Group activities in Daegu include a kimchi-making class, face-mask creation class and a visit to the Seomun Market (image, right) which was one of the three main markets during the Joseon Dynasty.

    Overall, South Korea has 11 convention centers located across the country that are capable of handling events of all sizes. The Korea MICE Bureau (www.koreaconvention.org) can assist with all aspects of planning, including site inspections, marketing, communications and more.

    Rachel Kapur  (Images courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization)