The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is focusing on MICE travelers from India. To increase awareness of Korea as a MICE destination, KTO plans to form associations with the travel agents first. Of the 92,000 visitors from India to Korea till the end of 2012, 70% were business travelers. To further support the travel trade to facilitate more MICE trips, KTO plans to work together with Indian travel agents by providing them 50% of marketing expense in India.
In this exclusive India Tourism Review MICE interview, Jae-Sang Lee, Director, KTO tells Aishwarya Singhal about the kind of support Indian travel agents can expect from KTO in facilitating business travel to Korea.
What are your business / trade statistics from the MICE travel sector in India? How important is it for your overall tourism trade?
Korea is on the fast-track to become one of the top destinations for MICE events. More facilities are being developed in key hubs to boost the industry. To keep up with this growing demand, Korea is working to boost its MICE facilities to maximize the benefits of MICE clients. Korea and India have shared an inseparable link which is reflected in their traditions, culture, heritage, economic, trade and tourism ties.
Tell us about the growth of MICE facilities in Korea.
Korea has achieved an enormous growth in meetings and convention industry by ranking 8th in the number of meetings and conventions by Union of International Associations in 2011. Especially, international meetings held at Seoul in 2010 increased 33 per cent compared to the previous years, recording 201 meetings. Seoul was ranked ahead of famous cities like Tokyo, Geneva and Barcelona and recorded no. 5 in the world as a global convention city. With milestone events like the 2010 G20 Summit, Korea’s awareness as a meeting destination has heightened.
In order to boost the country as one of the top five convention destinations in the world, the Korean government had declared last year as the 2012 Korea Convention Year apart from the Visit Korea Year 2010-2012 campaign to boost the number of inbound tourists to Korea.
In addition, the 2012 Korea Convention Year joined forces with the Korea MICE Alliance, which a union of regional convention bureaus, destination management companies and professional congress organizers, so that each city’s unique incentive plans are maximized for participants in any of the nine convention destinations all across Korea. On a national level, Korea Tourism Organization will increase financial subsidies to the organizers of MICE events.
Please share some statistics with us on Indian business tourist arrivals to Korea.
There were over 11 million tourists from overseas by 2012. Among them, there were 92,000 visitors from India to Korea up till the end of 2012. Leisure visitors were 26% and business travelers were 70%.. Out of business travelers around 25% were the participants for MICE in Korea.
What type of incentives do you have to offer exclusively for the Indian MICE sector?
For Korean products, KTO normally works together with Indian travel agents by providing them 50% of Marketing Expense in India. When an incentive group visits Korea, KTO provides traditional performances for them and at times even a welcoming ceremony at the Incheon International Airport.
For MICE with a minimum of 100 foreign participants, you can choose one of the following options to add to the general services we offer:
- Traditional Korean performances for the welcoming dinner, farewell dinner, opening or closing ceremony
- Pre-convention or post-convention tour service
- Financial assistance with program design or welcome kits to be distributed to attendees upon arrival at the event
Additionally, we provide a special opportunity to visit Korea in advance:
- Site Inspection Tours : We offer organized site inspection tours that include complimentary airline tickets, accommodation, guides, transportation, meals and so forth.
- Orientation Visit : We regularly extend invitations to meeting planners who wish to visit Korea, to familiarize themselves with Korea and its offerings
The Korea MICE Bureau and KTO provides additional support to those hosting MICE events with more than 1,000 foreign participants. On occasions, when a group consists of over 1,000 pax, the president of KTO would personally welcome the group with a welcome speech.
Below are some examples of the offerings for very large events. The nature of additional services are offered on a case-by-case basis.
- Korean Tourism promotion and information desk
- Partial subsidization of a welcome dinner or coffee breaks
* Non-financial support regarding entry visas, customs clearance, etc. is granted in collaboration with relevant government bodies.
How do you get your MICE traffic? Is it primarily through the Indian travel trade? What are the initiatives you have undertaken to engage with the Indian travel trade to boost your destination's MICE tourism?
KTO is focusing on developing high quality tourism products, global marketing, special incentive programs while concentrating on online marketing initiatives and social media. The focus this year is to promote the destination through, advertisements, joint promotions, trade shows, familiarization trips and a food festival on a pan-India basis.
Furthermore we are also working towards building a strong association with travel agents handling outbound from India, as they are an effective medium for reaching out to all kinds of travelers.
We are focusing our time to create awareness through trade and consumer promotions. Our first step is to provide detailed information and product knowledge to the travel trade industry. We would be promoting the destination through training sessions, road shows, workshops, advertisements, joint promotions, trade shows and familiarization trips on a pan-India basis.
Which cities from India are you currently targeting? Is your focus area solely HNIs or does it cover Tier-II and Tier-III cities as well?
The target markets from India are Mumbai and Delhi followed by Bangalore and Chennai. We are tapping all the metros and we would look into the tier two cities as well. earlier this year, we did a marketing initiative program with select travel agents and press in the city of Pune and in the month of June 2013, we did a select press and travel agents meet in Hyderabad so that they understand the offerings of the destination and can further create packages to entice the customers. we will offer complete support to the agents.
What challenges do you face in tapping the Indian MICE sector? What are your strategies to counter them?
One of the misconceptions in Indian vegetarian cuisine is not available in Korea and the travel agents are not aware that there are over 100 Indian restaurants in Seoul itself which cater to the Indian travelers. There are also many restaurants that serve only vegetarian cuisine. We have made sure that our international travelers will not have any hassle in regard to their meals.
We are trying to reach out to the travelers so that they can experience Korea. The hotels in which the travelers are staying need to be informed about the dietary preferences earlier, so that the hotels are ready to cater to the requirements.