▲ Glass House in Phoenix Island, designed by Tadao Ando. Photo courtesy Phoenix Island
Haevichi, a Korean word meaning the sun shines through, is the name of an imposing new luxury hotel that opened in 2008 in Pyoseon, Jeju. Indeed, when one steps into the hotel lobby on a bright spring day, warm sunlight pierces the glass roof, filling the eight-floor high atrium. Haevichi’s online brochure says that its lobby and main interior was designed to mimic the balcony seats of an opera house but the hotel’s airy atrium is also reminiscent of a gigantic aircraft hangar.
Hyun Joon Ho, Haevichi’s communication officer, said that the hotel boasts extravagantly high-class guestrooms and suites designed by WATG, a Seattle-based hotel design firm, which are luxurious enough to make the hotel the first six-star estate in Jeju. However, the lasting memory of guests when they leave Haevichi will be that the hotel is huge. Haevichi has 242 rooms, 46 suites and six event halls, including a Grand Ballroom that can accommodate up to 1,300 guests, the largest single capacity room on Jeju.
“Haevichi hotel on average invested some $600,000 per guest room to qualify as a six-star hotel,” Hyun said, “which is double the amount compared to the unit construction cost of other five-star hotel rooms.”
▲ Photo courtesy Haevichi Hotel and Resort
Other than bringing the six-star hotel category to Jeju, Haevichi’s biggest contribution to the local hospitality industry is that it moved the geographical center of Jeju’s luxury hotels further east of the island. Before Haevichi opened, the most important meetings and summits were predominately held in hotels clustered in Jungmun. Haevichi now hosts top summits and large business meetings, including the Fourth Jeju Peace Forum in 2007.
Whereas Haevichi attempts to edge ahead of other hotels with its sheer scale and six-star pedigree, other hotels prosper by choosing to go the opposite direction. Baume Couture Boutique Hotel is a case in point. Located in the sprawling urban district of Jeju City, the 12-story hotel has 41 deluxe rooms and suites. However, despite its small size and the relative demerits of its urban location, it succeeds by demarketing its assets.
“We are targeting the top 10 percent of the privileged class; therefore we offer leisure incentives such as horseback riding and boat riding,” said Oh Jung Gi, general manager of Baume Couture. The hotel also organizes boutique-style cultural events and concerts by celebrity pianists and jazz singers.
Designed by Sung Hyo Sang, a renowned Korean architect, the chic minimalistic lobby of Baume Couture has, since its opening, welcomed more than 7,300 guests, with the primary guests being upper-class Koreans. The hotel is now trying to expand and target foreign guests.
Private pools and independent gardens unique to villa-style resorts are the central attractions of Olle Resort, located in the west of Jeju and another rising star in the Jeju hospitality scene. Opened in 2006, the resort has 52 guest rooms including nine pool-villas. The destination is popular among Korean honeymooners who are looking for a domestic alternative to South-East Asian resorts.
▲ Offering the chance for guests to get away from it all and bask in the lap of luxury, the hotels on Jeju have spared no expense in trying to attract high-end clientele. Photos courtesy Podo Hotel
To compete in the increasingly aggressive hospitality market on Jeju, other hotels and resorts are seeking to create iconic landmarks that are tourist attractions in their own right. By employing respected architects from around the world to design their resorts and hotels, companies hope to individualize their properties, while at the same time creating the ambience of modernity and sophistication.
The Podo hotel, built for Pinx Golf Club in 2001, is an effective example of branding and hospitality innovation through architecture. Designed by master architect Itami Jun, the Podo hotel seamlessly harmonizes with the surrounding environment. Podo (Korean for grapes) hotel, inspired by the neighboring oreum, creates an atmosphere of serenity and calm. Jun is familiar with Jeju having designed several structures for the island, including being head architect for the Jeju Global English City, and captures the island’s essence in the structure that blends with the nature around it.
In the same vein, Tadao Ando and Mario Botta designed the MIPIM award-winning Phoenix Island Resort. It is a sprawling collection of stone, glass and concrete buildings that is unparalleled elsewhere on the island.
In tune with more environmentally conscious design decisions, hospitality companies have also opted for greener approaches to promoting their hotels. Phoenix Island Resort openly states that it is environmentally friendly and can host “green meetings” and its a motto is the three Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle.
With the upcoming World Conservation Congress in 2012 it is expected that many hotels will follow suit and adopt eco-friendly practices in marketing their hotels and also in connection with excursions. Currently, Haevichi, which lies along Olle course 1, has a package deal for guests to walk the Jeju trails.
▲ Photo courtesy Olle Resort
Shilla has also anticipated this demand and instituted group arranged outings specifically with incentive tours in mind. The unique outings combines resort-style programs with activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, surfing and golfing. Shilla has the advantage of being stationed atop Jungmun cliff, which not only affords stunning views but also is easily accessible to the beach, thus enabling guests to partake in aquatic activities. Though many hotels are close to the ocean, few have integrated programs of this nature.
It is no secret that Jeju Island has become a hotbed for tourism in Asia and with the provincial government’s push to attract MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) industries, the hospitality market has responded by preparing luxury hotels specifically for guests with discerning taste.
From utilizing the talents of world-renowned architects to grand and inventive services, the competition for dollars, from Korea and abroad, has created an arena of impressive and distinct accommodations.
With an extraordinary array of options, with no two hotels alike, the consumer is afforded the opportunity to inspect the goods, weigh the luxuries and choose the experience that they most desire on Jeju Island.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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