▲ Jeju Governor Kim Tae Hwan giving the opening speech for International Green MICE Week. Photo by Jean K. Min
April 14 through the 16 marked Jeju’s debut into the already well-established world of MICE industries under the theme of Jeju International Green MICE Week. An acronym for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions, MICE is the business of hosting large corporate functions, from unveiling new automobiles to team-building seminars.
At the International Convention Center (ICC Jeju), more than 500 participants from Korea and abroad examined what Jeju had to offer such events. Seventy-nine booths strove to convince event organizers that the island has the proper infrastructure, nightlife, safety precautions and amenities to not only host their events but entertain their clients while here.
During the three-day convention, sponsored by the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy and hosted by the Jeju Tourism Organization, many event organizers seemed impressed with what Jeju had to offer though the term green seemed to be rather an empty idiom. Elna Tan, who represented Ultrex Entertainment Pte Ltd, said the event was “not very” green. “There are a lot of disposable things here,” she said. Victor Seah, from East West Executive Travelers, said the term appealed to his company but the only aspect of the convention he noticed that adhered to the concept was an early morning bike ride. He did not take part due to cold weather and assumed few attendees had.
▲ Photo by Jean K. Min
Tan said that there were a lot of printed brochures and organizers would have been better to use flash drives. “You can go around [to the booths] getting information and it would be fun.” She added that there were a lot of “ways to be green that the city did not seem to consider.” Seah said “I wish some of them had relied on a CD instead of these brochures, [which] as you can see, are everywhere, everywhere.”
During the event, tours took participants to several of Jeju’s natural sites, including olle courses, oreum and Mount Halla. The green of Jeju’s MICE convention seemed to be more concerned with Jeju’s natural attributes than with conservation of nature as a whole.
This apparent oversight on the part of MICE week organizers did not seem to discourage visitors from considering the island as a possible destination for their clients. What the event lacked in promoting the Island’s green image, it compensated for with hospitality. “We’ve been so well taken care of. There is nothing more we could ask,” Seah said.
Another disadvantage for the inter-national clientele was the lack of English-speaking representatives. Though the booths were plastered with signs in English, not all the representatives spoke English, Tan said. There were the “Right mix of venders [at the convention] but the language could be better.”
Being a relatively new player in the industry, Jeju has many pros and cons as a MICE destination. “I think that it’s a catch 22,” Seah said. “If you are not known, you are a best-kept secret, if you are too well known, like Bali, it becomes ‘been there done that.’ ” Considering that Jeju is comparatively unknown in the industry, both Seah and Tam said consumers are showing interest in the island but are somewhat apprehensive since it has not been tried and tested. This image may soon change with Amway and other major corporations hosting conventions on the island within the next few months.
▲ Guest at Green MICE Week included Korean Tourism Organization president Lee Cham, seen center. Photo by Jean K. Min
Convention attendees said that while Jeju does have the capacity to be a suitable MICE venue, transportation is a concern when considering hosting large conventions of 1,000 people or more. For most international travelers, direct flights to Jeju are not available.
Seah, who attended the event from Singapore, said the trip was good but that, due to needing a connecting flight, Jeju is better suited for smaller conventions. Tan said a possible stopover in Seoul might be necessary for clients to have a more enjoyable flight.
These concerns aside, the Jeju Tour-ism Organization announced some 20 memorandums of understanding were signed at the convention stating a willingness on the part of event organizers to bring their clients to the island.
As Korea’s and Jeju’s popularity grows through media exposure, stakeholders anticipate an influx of international business.
“This year,” said Kim Young Mi of the Jeju Tourism Organization, “will mark the starting of what is to become an annual event.
“Through this event, the Jeju MICE industry will grow into a higher value-added, environment-friendly industry.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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