▲ The MICE Specialist Training Courses program started this month and endeavors to produce strong human resources for this growing industry on Jeju. Photo courtesy Jeju Tourism Organization
This is the first in a 3-part series detailing the Jeju Tourism Organization’s MICE Specialist Training Courses. — Ed.
Death by boredom may have been the prognosis knowing 20 hours of Korean government-sponsored classes lay ahead of me.
Luckily, Korean MCI Director Kim Heung Hwan served up a heavy, four-hour dose of insight into how Jeju needs to improve to become the oft-talked about, but rather elusive “international” city in terms of attracting revenue for MICE (short for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions.)
This reporter was chosen along with a diverse crew of older Korean students to, according to the program intro, “enhance practical skills and knowledge about the MICE industry and become [an industry] specialist, who can contribute to fostering Jeju Island as the resort-based and hub city in Northeast Asia’s MICE industry.”
That’s a tall, fluffy order.
Conducted entirely in English, the Jeju Tourism Organization’s program is sponsored by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
During the first of a five-week course, Kim provided thought-provoking options for Jeju’s future, detailing MICE theory and application. He is a heavy hitter with MCI (Meetings, Conventions and Incentives), a global association, communication and event management partner with 44 offices in 22 countries.
Suggestions to bring in bigger and better MICE events included taking a proactive stance concerning possible future casinos on the island, significantly increasing the capacity of an indoor venue, focusing on yearly lifetime events, improving the government’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Web site layout in addition to having one Web site providing the best information, and branding Jeju with one, definable short slogan.
Other ideas generated active debate, including Jeju’s bid to become one of the New7Wonders of Nature, which is run by a private foundation. Jeju is well known in Korea. Outside of Korea and in Asia it is lesser known, and as Kim said, “Jeju is nothing in Europe, it is nothing in America.” The hanging, unanswered question was, how can votes be successfully garnered internationally?
Casinos in any culture strike a controversial chord. The same is true for Jeju. Problems regarding the negative side effects of gambling may surface.
Kim reflected on a personal note. Five to six years ago he would see many Japanese visitors at tourist attractions on Jeju. During the last one or two years the trend is dramatically increasing toward Chinese tourists. Using the big casinos in Macau and Singapore as an example, Kim said 55 percent of the revenue generated there is from China.
“Chinese spend more money than tourists and other [convention] delegates,” Kim said. “For economic reasons we have to have some casino attractions in Jeju. We could host many delegates to our city and country.”
Normally, he added, people do not go to a place such as Las Vegas or Macau only for gambling. The side effects would outweigh the drawbacks, Kim said. There is much more such as shopping and exhibitions, and the small casinos, present at some Jeju island hotels, do not offer much more than gambling.
Right now, Jeju is limited in the amount of people it can attract in one group. ICC Jeju in Jungmun is the largest venue on the island, and according to Jeju’s CVB Web site, it can service up to 4,300 people. Where does that leave groups with 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 people to go? Places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Sapporo provide dome-style venues to attract these large international groups.
“On Jeju,” Kim asked, “Where can you accommodate them? It is impossible.” His idea was to put a roof on the World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo. That would open up possibilities.
“You don’t have to have many things,” Kim said. “Jeju is different than Busan and Seoul. It needs to develop and make more attractive what it has now for the future, [such as a] casino and dome-style option. That is the policy makers’ options and [for those] who live in Jeju.”
“As an attraction, Jeju needs to make the charm more attractive. Visitors need to have original attractions. [Jeju] could create some market. It would be very tricky or controversial,” he added.
Ninety-eight percent of worldwide convention and exhibition facilities lose money, Kim said. So why maintain these red projects? The answer: It is one of the social infrastructures of the city.
These two big ideas lead into the third. Jeju currently lacks a repeating year-by-year event. As the IUCN World Conservation Congress will take hold on Jeju in September 2012, it won’t be back anytime soon because this event is considered for Jeju a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Big events, like this, or like the Olympics, are on a permanent tour, rarely coming back to the same area.
“Jeju needs that permanent event that is sustainable,” Kim said.
How do groups find out about Jeju, if they are interested in coming?
They usually would go through a convention and visitors bureau Web site and a search engine. As with other major cities’ Web sites, such as Los Angeles, Paris, and Singapore, they are all similar and provide the basic functions for meeting planners. Kim encouraged the local government to change the format in addition to raising the question of how is the search function best used.
It seems, with Seongsan Ilchulbong (Seongsan Sunrise Peak) for example, that many Web sites will describe a location. There is no one unifying site being the best that everyone would be directed to if searching for tourist information for a large group or even individuals.
The last topic of interest was Jeju’s brand. There are now different slogans, that for all intents and purposes, do not work.
“Singapore used to be ‘Uniquely Singapore’ and foreigners would ask, what’s unique?” Kim said. “They [successfully] changed it to ‘YourSingapore.’” In the same respect, Korea has buzzwords such as sparkling and dynamic. Kim said he asks himself, what is sparkling and what is dynamic about Korea? Is there an answer? The solution for Jeju lies in thinking differently and acting very fast to change Jeju’s image for domestic and overseas people, Kim said.
In short, Jeju needs only one good word, one brand, one Web site, one good image.
With this first round of classes, participants were left asking, what will these be?
Next: In part 2, the MICE class goes on a day tour of Gyeongju’s Historic Areas UNESCO site.
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