▲ JTO President Yang Young-Keun. Photo by Darryl Coote
The newly-appointed president of the Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO), Yang Young-Keun, has told The Jeju Weekly that having fun should be the major goal of all the island’s festivals and events.
“I taught for 25 years, and I have traveled to 150 cities, so I have learned [and felt] a lot and based on my experience I want to change many things,” he said.
Having specialized in tourism development, Yang believes that to set Jeju apart from other tourist locations in Asia, it is necessary for the island to embrace and promote the qualities that make it unique. “I believe it might be ideal to combine nature tourism along with infrastructure, and I strongly believe that preservation should be a priority, but that doesn’t exclude development. We need a preservation policy first, followed by proper development,” he said.
During the interview Yang spoke of the need for a balance between preservation and development. He said that preservation is important but that we cannot forget about development. If Jeju neglects this, then the island’s residents' quality of life will be diminished.
“In the 21st century the tourism trend is changing so fast, so the preservation policy is not always correct … Preservation and development need to be in harmony,” Yang said.
One of the events on the island he sees as being a good example of this harmony is the Jeju Olle Walking Festival. “Walking is becoming a global trend, and Jeju’s nature has big potential, so the JTO is trying to take advantage of Jeju’s nature using Jeju Olle as a strategic tourist product,” he said.
Yang explained that it is the JTO’s role to establish a stable infrastructure to ensure that hikers have easy access not only to the island but also to amenities while here.
He stated three problems that currently exist for hiking tourists on Jeju: the difficulty in being issued a visa, lack of accommodation, and a need to expand green tourism. Yang hopes to change the island’s tourism infrastructure to ease visa restrictions, develop more accommodation near Olle courses, and find new avenues of green tourism, for instance delving into local cuisine for food options.
Specifically for the Jeju Olle Walking Festival, Yang believes that its success is not only dependant on travelers coming to the island but also on the involvement of villagers that live along the hiking courses.
“I believe a good relationship and a good bond with the villagers is very important. It is not only about the festival,” but also about the Jeju people enjoying and actively participating in the event, he said.
He added that at present, even geographically close countries like Japan are not familiar with Jeju. Still, due to the recent global tourism trend of hiking, the Olle walking festival has the potential to become known throughout the world despite being only one-year-old.
But for Yang, the key to success for any festival relies on an idea he often reiterated during the interview; enjoyment. “It is very important that the organizers [of festivals] enjoy what they are doing. Many festivals on Jeju kind of just show off and are not about enjoyment. Unless the organizers enjoy creating this festival, how can they touch the hearts of tourists and participants?”
Though Yang said that he is “interested” in the Jeju Olle walking festival he also said there is not a single festival he currently likes. He hopes to change that.
One way to increase the level of enjoyment for all people involved, Yang said, is that they “should be [organized] by professionals who have very creative minds [and know what] people enjoy.”
Yang believes that all aspects of marketing Jeju should revolve around the idea of fun. He said that they will revamp their online social networking campaigns by increasing their online marketing budget threefold in order to create a brand image of Jeju on YouTube, Facebook, and other sites that show how enjoyable the island really is. “In the case of YouTube, the content should be funny, impactful and compelling,” he said.
This also translates into how he views the island’s New7Wonders of Nature campaign. For him, the goal is not so much winning the event but enjoying the ride. “I basically believe the New7 Wonders campaign is like an event, a festival. We have to enjoy it. Whether Jeju is selected as a New7Wonders finalist is not that important. What is meaningful is that not only the Jeju people but that the people in China, people in Japan, and in Seoul are promoting Jeju Island.”
As head of JTO he stated his goal is to create a performance culture on Jeju. This he believes will establish an arena where performers and spectators can simultaneously “enjoy together.” But to do this he said, “we need human resources, infrastructure, and professionals.”
Based on his aggressive marketing strategy, a revamping of the tourist industry, and the promotion of a performance culture on Jeju, Yang said, “I am confident that in six months will we see tangible results from my plans.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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