INCHEON HAS GAINED GLOBAL PROFILE IN RECENT YEARS with the development of its sustainable, hi-tech city Songdo, with MICE a key component of its growth strategy. And now Gangwon province is appearing on MICE planners’ radars as it gets set to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Songdo City, one of the three Incheon Free Economic Zones (IFEZs), hosts Korean and international hi-tech companies and features the country’s first park that channels seawater through 1.8km of waterways. Songdo is also home to the Convensia, which is set to double the size of its ballroom and exhibition space by 2022.
Pyeongchang, in Gangwon province, will be hosting the mountain sports of the Winter Olympics in February 2018, while further east, around the coastal city of Gangneung, will be the ice sports, such as hockey and skating.
Gangwon will be served by the KTX high-speed rail network with a route that will connect Pyeongchang to Incheon International airport, bringing visitors to the Games in around 70 minutes from Seoul. MICE will also play a vital role in the post- Games’ legacy with Gangwon Convention & Visitors’ Bureau counting on new venues, and accommodation, and a range of activities to strengthen the province’s portfolio.
Incheon has enjoyed an enduring appeal to overseas traders as a gateway to Korea. Now the district of Songdo is being positioned as the IFEZ’s city for hi-tech and sustainable development with a special appeal to conference groups. Songdo took shape as land began to be reclaimed from the Yellow Sea in 2003, in a scheme earmarked for completion in 2022. Besides business, there is a growing selection of ideas that event planners can avail themselves once meetings are over.
CHINA-BASED cosmetics company Aurance was impressed at the welcome and entertainment provided to 6,000 of its employees when they visited last year. So much so, that executives signed a deal with Incheon to host the company’s incentive group visits to the area until 2018.
G-TOWER is a superb starting point for groups to get their bearings in Songdo. There is an elevator ride to the 29th-level observation floor; and a tour of a permanent exhibition, where interactive displays tell the city’s story, from the days of planning and land reclamation in 2003 to the advent of a city run along the principle of the Internet of Things, with traffic, security, environment and services rooted in cyber technology. The East Asian offices of the United Nations are also in the tower, along with the headquarters of the Green Climate Fund, which operates under the UN, and the Incheon Free Economic Zone Global Centre.
TRI-BOWL THEATRE is a radical venture in modern architecture and is arguably the area’s most eye-catching landmark. The Tri-Bowl contains an arena-shaped concert hall, and a multipurpose space for education and small-scale exhibitions that are suited to arts, media or ecology.
SONGDO CONVENSIA was built in 2008 and hosted the Korea MICE Expo last year. Convensia is set to double the size of its ballroom to hold 2,000 people and expand its exhibition halls to accommodate 900 booths in a second phase of construction, due to commence this year. This forms part of an overall plan by the authorities to make Incheon a ‘frontier MICE city’ with international links, most notably to China and its Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road initiative. Resorts and yachting marinas are also seen as part of a strategy to drive business and leisure tourism. The venue has also staked its claim as the first full LEED-certified, environmentally friendly, convention centre in Asia.
MUUIDO ISLAND has a conference and corporate retreat centre called the Tesco-Homeplus Academy. The supermarket chain partnered with overseas companies such as Korea’s Homeplus as it sought to expand its brand overseas. The complex features lecture rooms, a conference hall, recreational facilities and around 70 guest rooms. When not used by future Tesco execs, other groups of up to 250 can use the academy as a retreat, with accommodation available at other Muuido hotels or on Incheon. It’s also proving popular for its ecological credentials – about US$10 million was invested in making the facility carbon-neutral with solar panels and other energy-saving technology.
Gangwon Convention and Visitors’ Bureau
NAMES SUCH ALPENSIA, PYEONGCHANG OR GANGNEUNG are more familiar to skiers and snowboarders than conference planners. But the province’s convention bureau intends to change this. Set up in 2014, it wants MICE to be a legacy of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Gangwon is aiming to do this with the same resolve that beat Munich in the bidding to host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
To add their own version of an Olympic flame to the Gangwon’s meetings and events industry, the bureau offers support for overseas business meetings and incentive groups of more than 100 participants. It also supports trade organisations and academic or professional associations whose events meet the requirements of the Union of International Associations and the International Congress and Convention Association.