There are only 14 days left until the New7Wonders of Nature are announced. The long journey began in July of 2007, when the New7Wonders Foundation officially announced its next campaign following the New7Wonders of the World. Initially, Jeju had to compete with 440 candidates. Yet, Jeju survived three rounds of cuts, of which the first two were chosen by public vote and the last by recommendation of a panel of experts.
The foundation has been taking votes through its Web site, phone calls, and text messages. However, due to its policy, the exact number of votes has yet to be revealed.
To compete with other candidates, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province and the Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO) were chosen to be the Official Supporting Committee (OSC) for Jeju’s New7Wonders campaign and have collaborated closely in an effort to attract more votes. In December of 2010, the Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature was established both at the national and provincial level. Jeju province, the JTO, and two committees have organized events to lift Jeju’s profile starting from the 300-day countdown.
There are 102 honorary ambassadors and 794 honorary representatives who have been chosen to advocate Jeju’s cause. Over 40 organizations have agreed to cooperate to achieve the island’s goal. Companies like Kia, Family Mart, and the JTO, among others, are also offering prizes to incentivize voters.
Why is this important? According to the New7Wonders Web site, it sees the four major contributions of its work as being: the organization of worldwide campaigns, the inclusion of immediate economic benefits, the connection of the world, and creating a lasting global memory.
Kim Tae Sung, chairman of the provincial planning committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature, said in a telephone interview, “Becoming one of the New7Wonders will be beneficial not only for Jeju, but also for Korea as a national image. Korea can advertise that it has one of the seven most beautiful sites.”
“It will increase foreign tourist visits, as it did for New7Wonders of the World sites,” he said, adding, “Attracting more tourists will be also beneficial to design sustainable development plans to preserve environmental resources.”
A report from the Jeju Development Institute states that if Jeju is chosen to be one of the New7 Wonders of Nature, the amount of money the island could earn in investments and profits from increases in tourism and production could range from 630 billion won to 1.3 trillion won (US$550 million to $1.1 billion), an amount comparable to the export of 50,000 mid-size cars.
However, when asked how much the tourism profit would increase due to New7Wonders, JTO Chief Marketing Manager Lee Sung Eun said, “Measuring and quantifying are hard tasks. Predicting the future is not easy.”
Yet, even though the exact profit expected from being named a New7Wonders of Nature is unknown, the JTO says it will be something similar to what Pyeongchang, a county in Gangwon province on the mainland that will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, is currently feeling. “We can be proud that we did something international.”
However, while Jeju’s candidacy for the New7Wonders of Nature has garnered wide interest on the island, there have been questions raised over the amount spent promoting the campaign and what effect this may have on Jeju tourism.
As a nonprofit foundation, the New7 Wonders funds itself through sponsorship, licensing rights, and telephone revenues garnered through votes. But how much is Jeju spending on the promotion of the New7Wonders project? When questioned by The Jeju Weekly, officials from the JTO and the provincial government denied having the information available to release to the public.
Last May, a group of bloggers made their concerns known online that they considered the Jeju government was putting too much time and money into this project. According to a Jejudomin Ilbo article written by Han Jong Soo (published online Oct. 3), Jeju province had spent approximately 18 billion won via telephone votes as of Sept. 13. However, denying the allegations, Lee said, “I heard that we [the JTO and the province] only paid 100 US dollars or so ... [to register as the OSC].”
“The New7Wonders Foundation never asked us for money,” he added.
So, how much did the Jeju government and the private sector spend on votes via international calls and text messages? Lee’s answer was, “We don’t exactly know.” No one The Weekly contacted could (or would) verify the exact figures on the cost of the New7Wonders campaign and whether or not it had been effective.
What is Jeju’s strength? Having the so-called “triple crown” UNESCO certificate for being a Biosphere Reserve, a World Natural Heritage, and a Global Geopark indicates that Jeju has worthy and well-preserved environmental factors.
But will Jeju win? The latest voting trends released by the foundation have not been positive. For two weeks in a row, Jeju’s votes have shown down trending arrows, indicating a decreased ranking and speed of growth month-on-month. Starting on Oct. 26, the New7Wonders Foundation began releasing daily voting trends. As of this writing, there is an indication that voting for Jeju has accelerated day to day.
The voting ends at 8:11 p.m., local time (11:11 a.m., GMT) on Nov. 11, and tentative results will come 4:07 a.m., local time on the 12th (7:07 p.m., GMT on the 11th). For more information, visit www.New7 Wonders.com.
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