▲ Jeju's golf courses are central to Jeju MICE's Resort MICE image. Photo courtesy Jeju CVB
[This is part of a series promoting Jeju CVB and the local MICEindustry.]
Korean tourist records have been broken for another year and the nation’s profile continues to rise. In 2012, tourist numbers peaked at 11.1 million and that figure is set to be topped again after an impressive first half of 2013.
While this is driven by Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, across China, Southeast Asia and the world, the impressive figures are also the result of targeted marketing in an increasingly diverse tour industry.
Beyond Korea’s strong cultural branding, tourists are arriving in droves for medical tourism, cruises, and also the lesser-known MICE industry, in which Korea leads the world.
Korea’s MICE industry
MICE events are riding a wave as interest in Korea rises across the globe. MICE events are meetings, incentives, conferences and events that bring together international organizations and corporations for business and pleasure.
The MICE industry is one of Korea’s hidden strengths. Between 2008 and 2012, Korea’s share of the industry for top international conferences doubled from 2.2 percent to 4.8 percent. If smaller events are included, its global share almost tripled, to 6.3 percent.
Jeju’s MICE story
According to figures for 2012, Korea is the fifth most successful MICE destination country, while Seoul is sixth for cities. Jeju Island, despite its much smaller population, is ranked 22nd as an international MICE city, holding 0.7 percent of top international events.
Jeju’s success story is remarkable. Between 1998-2007, Jeju led the world in MICE industry growth with an incredible 3,700 percent increase in top international events held. It was followed in second by Busan, which grew 2,800 percent. Needless to say, Korea was far ahead of competing nations for MICE growth.
Jeju continued to grow between 2008-2012 when its share of the global industry grew from 0.4 percent to 0.7 percent of top international events and it is now well established as a quality MICE destination.
Its contribution to Jeju’s tourism industry is clear, but when choosing a destination, MICE customers have a slightly different set of priorities from your average holidaymaker.
▲ With increasing international connections through Jeju International Airport, Jeju is getting closer all the time. Photo courtesy Jeju CVB
The factors bringing MICE events to Jeju are diverse, as in any tourist sector, but for such an international industry one is foremost: Accessibility.
They say it isn’t the destination, but the journey that is important; for MICE events this couldn’t be truer. This is not a philosophical koan to be meditated on, but pure pragmatism. Delegates demand the journey is quick, comfortable and convenient.
The no-visa system means Jeju outshines alternatives on all points and being within 2 hours of 500 million people means it is at the center of the region.
Jeju currently has 50 regular and irregular international flights connecting it with East Asia and it is also increasing the number of “direct transfer routes” through transit hubs such as Hong Kong. With direct flights to Malaysia possible in the near future, Jeju is getting closer all of the time.
Jeju’s business environment
Before choosing a MICE destination, customers want to see how successful the destination is in its own business. What are the strength industries and where can connections be made?
It would be a mistake to discount Jeju here. The island is seeing industrial growth year on year and it has fostered a number of strength industries while it is again breaking records in international investment and exports.
In terms of local industries, green energy such as the Smart Grid and wind energy are vital to recent growth and there are leading science and research centers. The local IT industry has also been boosted by corporations choosing to relocate to the island.
Jeju’s leisure environment
When all the business is out of the way, delegates want to relax and enjoy what the destination has to offer. Leisure is not a deciding factor in staging events, but it is certainly where Jeju is in a league of its own.
Clearly many tourists want to go to see the bright lights of Seoul or the cityscape of Busan, but nothing can compare to the Jeju environment. Few destinations place you in the middle of a Global Geopark, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve, all at the same time.
As an international tourist, there is also no better place to learn about Korea’s unique culture. Where else can you come face-to-face with Jeju’s haenyeo (diving women), or its unique shamanic traditions?
People are voting with their feet. Jeju Island is not only the destination of choice for tourists in Korea, but it is also where Koreans themselves want to live. Mainlanders escaping the rat race have driven population growth and even the local birth rate is the highest in the nation.
It is easy to see why Jeju Island has become one of the strongest MICE destinations in the world over the last 10 years.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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