▲ State-of-the-art conference rooms and cutting-edge technology inside, while commanding a spectacular view of Mt. Halla and Jungmun Beach outside, ICC Jeju is a compelling symbol of the 'resort-style convention' strategy hailed by Jeju's convention bureau and key officials. Photo courtesy ICC Jeju
It was early March of this year and officials from the Jeju Tourism Organization were attending the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo held in Melbourne, the capital of the southern Australian state of Victoria. They did not expect thousands of international customers scouting for their next meeting location to immediately recognize Jeju as an option, but awareness of the island among the participants, revealed by on-site interviews, was much lower than they had hoped.
“The current low awareness is not necessarily bad news,” said one of the conference attendees. In fact Jeju’s low profile among consumers may add to the island’s competitive edge within MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) industries. “To many buyers who have already experienced well-known resorts many times, Jeju’s novelty would prove an opportunity since a new and unknown place always arouses their curiosity,” a JTO official said.
Sohn Chang Wan, marketing manager of Johnson & Johnson Medical would concur with this statement. The company has been holding “One To Win,” a biannual conference for their top sales representatives. The company’s conference organizers have traditionally been careful to choose a relatively less familiar location as the venue with the purpose of creating high expectations among their employees. Long before Dubai became famous the world over as the ideal Arabian tourist destination, Johnson & Johnson Medical had chosen the city for their conference venue in 2007.
At the top of Sohn’s agenda, he said, when selecting the host country for the 2009 conference was “differentiation.”
“Seoul was an obvious location at first glance for the conference as it has everything I could hope for,” Sohn recalled. The problem with Seoul for Sohn and his team was that the city was too well-known among Johnson & Johnson Medical’s Asia Pacific delegation. It was likely that many of them had already visited the city. With Seoul crossed off the list, Jeju became the next obvious choice.
Jeju has by far the largest number of top hotel rooms per province in Korea and its convention infrastructure is second to none except for Seoul. Furthermore, the island’s relative novelty among Asia Pacific delegations would be a perfect fit for Sohn’s “differentiation” strategy. When Jeju was announced as the conference venue, it instantly sparked a great deal of curiosity among Johnson & Johnson’s estimated 1,400 invitees. The novelty value of the island has been its greatest asset for Sohn and his team to maintain high anticipation among the delegation for nearly one year before the convention date of March 16, 2009.
Sohn’s team ran a series of news bulletins and quizzes on the company’s dedicated Web site to educate conference attendees about the island’s characteristic volcanic landscape and unique culture. The convention staff had earlier identified three UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites in Jeju — Mt. Halla, Manjang Caves and Sunrise Peak — as key elements that would differentiate the venue. As expected, the series of preliminary education sessions had not only heightened the anticipation of the participants about the upcoming event, but also motivated other uninvited sales representatives to work harder, which is the real purpose of many corporate incentive tours.
The entire island is the venue “Differentiation” was the keyword for Sohn in hotel room allocation as well. Whereas some 600 Chinese delegates checked into the Ramada Renaissance and the Grand Hotel, the top two hotels in Jeju City, the remaining 800 delegates were given rooms in the Jeju Shilla, the Lotte Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jungmun. Initially, Chinese invitees complained about being checked into comparatively older hotels in Jeju City, but they soon discovered the merits of staying in northern Jeju — shopping.
Jungmun is by far the most beautiful venue on the island in terms of natural wonder and easy access to the convention center, but resort-style hotel accommodations were not a good fit for Chinese participants. For the newly affluent hailing from the factory of the world, shopping was the top entertainment choice. Duty-free shops, discount stores and the colorful nightlife of Jeju’s urban district satisfied the Chinese delegations while other Southeast Asian invitees relaxed in the resort hotels in Jungmun.
Sohn’s team was determined that they would not stop with their objective of differentiating the Jeju event at hotels. In fact they envisioned the entire city should be considered the convention venue among the delegates. Seoul was too big for that purpose and Johnson & Johnson Medical’s event was not compelling enough for government officials to transform Korea’s capital into a huge welcome center.
When Johnson & Johnson Medical’s Asia Pacific delegation arrived in Jeju, their motorcade passed through a series of welcome banners lining the streets, starting from Jeju International Airport continuing all the way down to the Jungmun tourist complex. The entire island appeared to have been turned into a single venue for the convention in the eyes of Johnson & Johnson Medical’s delegates. Other local governments in Korea would be reluctant to go to that extent for a corporate event but Jeju officials were happy to do so as the island was committed to welcoming international MICE customers.
Business and pleasure never mixed this good
▲ Amway Korea invited the company's top sellers and their families to Jeju this year for an annual event held at ICC Jeju. Photo courtesy Amway
“I was touched by the efficient operation system and kind service staff of ICC Jeju. But what impressed me most was the exceptionally beautiful Jeju convention center,” Peter de Jong, former CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association, said about the International Convention Center Jeju while wrapping up the 53rd PATA Annual Conference.
Looking down on the white foaming waves of the Pacific relentlessly crashing into Jungmun Beach through the glass wall of the ICC Jeju, one cannot but believe that this is the place where “mixing business and pleasure,” the hospitality sector’s worn-out slogan, suddenly starts to make sense.
The world-class convention infra-structure coupled with scores of top resort hotels and a dose of urban elements, such as shopping and nightlife found in northern Jeju were the final scoring points for Sohn and his conference staff that tipped the balance in Jeju’s favor.
Why invite your valued guests and top members to a convention in Jeju? Sohn and Johnson & Johnson Medical’s delegates experienced that Jeju’s novelty, when coupled with its unique property as a resort-style convention destination, would make a compelling case for any convention organizer who wishes to differentiate their otherwise ordinary event.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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