STORY BY SAMANTHA COOMBER
Banishing the barriers to communicate and move around Seoul.
Through the “Korea Convention Year” 2012 campaign (cleverly overlapping ‘‘Visit Korea Year 2010-2012”) Seoul has firmly established itself as a leading global MICE destination while making progress as more MICE-friendly for international visitors. South Korea’s increasingly fast-moving, modern capital has undertaken in 2012 significant upgrading and advancements on its transport, traffic and communication challenges.
Finally, Korea’s complex mobile networks are simplified for business travellers, with the May launch of a new streamlined, pre-paid SIM card service, fully adaptable to existing smartphones purchased overseas (WCDMA and 3G compatible).
Stopover visitors can get their current SIM cards switched with a fully-functioning local Universal SIM card (USIM) by visiting the O2 Mobile Center at City Air Terminal, located beside COEX – Seoul’s largest, leading convention and exhibition centre – making it conveniently accessible for conference participants. Longer stay visitors can obtain “OLLEH Simple” prepaid SIM card plans at KT Global stores. Both options offer a cheaper, more convenient alternative to existing roaming services and phone rentals, plus avoid any last-minute fees owed upon departure.
Out of the jam
South Korea’s government plans to invest US$15 billion upgrading railway systems over the next decade: this now includes the ITX — Cheongchun high-speed train travelling from Seoul to Gangwon-do Province, South Korea’s first dual-storey train. From November, international visitors can now travel Seoul’s greater metropolitan rail and bus system (up to 20 times daily) with just one transit card, the T-Money M-Pass.
Other welcome transport additions include Hangang River Water Taxi, traversing the Han River and making cross-city travel a reality in less than 30 minutes, an international taxi service, visitor-friendly, available 24/7 with drivers speaking English, Chinese or Japanese, plus new bus transit systems.
“Outside the Coex enclave (where meetings, travel, entertainment, shopping and accommodation facilities are under one roof), traffic commutes can be a hassle, but Seoul offers great public transport alternatives such as extensive subway network, bus-only traffic lanes and international taxis,” confirms Alexander Paik, PR coordinator, Seoul Convention Bureau (SCB).
“As a premier convention city, building undersupply could be one of Seoul’s biggest MICE challenges. Additional conference venues set for completion include Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Exhibition Centre (DDP) in 2013, designed by award-winning architect, Zaha Hadid and covering 85,000 square metres with two convention halls, exhibition centre and multiple conference rooms and Seoul Station Convention Centre (Korail) launching 2015…”
Breaking the language barrier
Even language problems seem to be resolved. “Expect hotels and service industry businesses to have no problem speaking English,” states Alexander, SCB. “As a now leading MICE destination, all MICE-related businesses are trained to serve English-speaking clients.”
As a premier convention city, building undersupply could be one of Seoul’s biggest MICE challenges. Additional conference venues set for completion include Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Exhibition Centre (DDP) in 2013, designed by award-winning architect, Zaha Hadid and covering 85,000 square metres with two convention halls, exhibition centre and multiple conference rooms and Seoul Station Convention Centre (Korail) launching 2015, with 23,000 square metres conference facilities, 3000-seat plenary hall and 16,000 square metres exhibition space.
“With Seoul’s boom in demand for meetings, we’ve had to recently increase hotel room numbers,” states Alexander. High-end hotel chains and business hotels openings include Conrad Seoul and JW Marriott Jung-gu, beside the DDP.
Super-equipped convention facilities, plus strong bidding support and aggressive marketing by SCB contribute to Seoul’s reputation as host of large-scale international events – the first Asian destination to host the G20 Summit, 2010. One hundred-plus secured bids for international conferences include a major triennial gathering for 2018, International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Congress.
Seoul’s recent civic efforts, stronger infrastructure and professionalism haven’t gone unnoticed — it was awarded “Best International Meetings Destination 2012” by US Business Traveler and Union of International Associations ranked Seoul fifth worldwide for the number of international meetings hosted in 2011. Seoul’s Incheon International Airport’s advanced technology – and ultra-swift arrivals and departures process – has led to Airports Council International “Best Airport Worldwide” ranking for a seventh successive year and “World’s Best Airport,” by SkyTrax, in 2012.
“Strategic developments in Seoul’s transport infrastructure and tourism and communication facilities have aided the city’s advancement as a premier MICE destination, while Coex’s inclusive multiple facilities are also driving the city’s competitiveness in the global business travel industry,” states Coex Global Business Unit international marketing manager, Rhiannon Shepherd.