Delegates at The Cruising Asia 2013, Jeju Forum in October met to discuss how to take the industry forward. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
Industry-wide support is set to make Jeju Island the center of the regional cruise industry after record-breaking figures for 2013 and port developments across the island indicate the rhetoric is quickly becoming a reality.
Governor Woo Keun-min has resolutely supported Jeju’s bid to become the Northeast Asian hub of cruise tourism. Speaking ahead of The Cruising Asia 2013, Jeju Forum, hosted Oct. 24-26 at The Jeju Grand Hotel, Shin Jeju, the governor said:
“By establishing the agenda for the Asian cruise market and increasing development in the industry, Jeju will be the hub for information exchange between Asian cruise companies and ports of call.”
Plans are being executed to make cruise tourism a central pillar of Jeju’s economy for years to come and the upgrading of the international passenger terminal is crucial to achieving this vision.
A two-floor international terminal with a waiting room, lounge and duty free shop will be constructed at Jeju Outer Port over 48,237㎡. A dual civil and military base and tourism port will also be built and extra berths for the simultaneous mooring of two 150 thousand ton ships will be constructed.
In addition, in the area around Jeju Outer Port and Sanjicheon, the historic area of Jeju City, Tamna Culture Plaza will be constructed as a public space for residents and tourists to experience local culture, festivals, food and shopping.
The developments will cost 12.8 billion won, with 6.4 billion supported by government and 6.4 billion privately invested. It is slated for completion by 2015. Work has been ongoing since July at the west seawall of Jeju Outer Port including work on a large security fence.
The need for expansion in infrastructure has long been clear. The Jeju Weekly reported in July that passengers had complained of a lack of facilities and the short layover on the island due to a lack of berths. Visitors from as far afield as Australia, the UK and India expressed disappointment at only seeing limited areas of the city as they were quickly moved on to allow another ship to dock. A provincial official said the development would change this.
A graphic illustration of the planned development at Jeju Outer Port, Jeju City. The ports here and at Gangjeong are expected to welcome 2.5 million passengers by 2020. Image courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
“Up to now there was only one docking location, but depending on securing additional berths, the number of possible entries can be increased and staying hours extended, which will benefit the local economy.”
Despite opposition from antinaval base protestors, the work on the dual military-civilian base at Gangjeong is also progressing. The construction was ruled legal by the Supreme Court on July 5, 2012, and although slated to be finished by 2014, it is now 15 months behind schedule and still facing strong opposition both locally and internationally.
As Asia’s share of global cruising catches up with Europe and North America, Korea is situated strategically between Japan and China to attract increasing numbers of passengers. Kim Eui Keun, professor at Jeju International University and Chairman of the Organizing Committee for The Cruising Asia 2013, Jeju Forum, says the potential is already being realized and predicts that around 2.5 million cruise passengers will visit Jeju by 2020.
“There are predicted to be 7 million cruise passengers in all of Asia by 2020 and 4 million of these will be Chinese. It is expected that around half of these will visit Jeju,” he said. Current passenger numbers indicate that such growth is not fanciful: “In 2011, 65 thousand cruise passengers came to Jeju and by 2012 the number was 140 thousand. By 2013 the number is projected to rise again to 360 thousand. This rapid growth means passengers have doubled consecutively,” said Kim.
The worry for industry insiders is that this growth is not effectively managed. The cruise industry is inherently connective, necessitating collaboration between ports of call and cruise companies. This need is well recognized by Kim.
“Many countries are involved in the cruise trade so one country cannot accomplish this alone. We need to cooperate and work together,” he said. “When cruises visit countries in the region, each port needs the best facilities if we are going to lead the industry, which demands collaboration.”
Alongside the port at Gangjeong, Jeju locals will be most impacted by Tamna Culture Plaza, Geonipdong, running along the banks of the Sanjicheon river. The development ostensibly draws from Jeju’s Tamna heritage and aims to provide international and domestic cruise passengers with an authentic cultural experience.
A provincial official said, “This development will contribute to local citizens’ incomes and the themed street will allow citizens to buy natural products and tourists will be able to experience the culture of Jeju.”
Jeju has experienced impressive recent growth in the tourism industry and this year records were broken as 2 million foreign tourists visited and foreign investment continued across the island.
Locals have expressed concerns, however, about the direction of such development and the degree to which locals are benefiting. Recognizing this, Governor Woo supported economic benefits going to the Jeju people to ensure all sectors of society are enfranchised.
“We must ensure that tourist facilities and hotels are using Jeju products and prices are at levels that local people can afford. The people of Jeju Island must reap the benefits of any industry growth by companies sourcing local produce and employing local people,” he said.
As Jeju seeks to realize its objective of becoming a world-class tourist destination, it is having to juggle economic development, cultural preservation and environmental protection. With major tourist growth ahead, officials may find the balancing act even tougher.
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