FAM Trip to KOREA: Discovering the MICE “Soul” of Seoul

FAM Trip to KOREA: Discovering the MICE “Soul” of Seoul

FAM Trip to KOREA: Discovering the MICE “Soul” of Seoul
November 22
15:02 2014

By Zuzana Adamson

Seoul Convention Bureau organized a press trip for MICE media in October 2014. Our magazine could not miss such an invitation – on one side Korea with its capital Seoul is not a very well-known destination in CEE but it gained the 9th position in TOP 10 “MICE” cities in the ICCA list in 2013.

Seoul achieved even better position in the UIA list (Union of International Associations): it got the magnificent 4th place in 2013 (the 5th position during 2010-2012). According to UIA statistics the city hosted 242 international congresses. In total Korea achieved the third position with its 635 meetings while it was the fifth place in 2012 with an increase by great 12.8 percent.

I was very curious how it looks like in the dynamic Seoul that is absolutely intriguing as a destination, also because of commercial relations between Korea and the Czech Republic and the CEE region. At current time there is a direct flight from Prague to Seoul and Korean Air Lines recently purchased CSA. The Koreans have car assembly plants for the brands Kia and Hyundai in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic among other things. Korea is the most represented country from Asia for incoming to the Czech Republic and when you mention that you are from “Prague” to the Koreans in Seoul, they all know and remember the series that was on air in the local television under the title “Lovers in Prague.” Prague is a very romantic and attractive city for the Koreans. They also know Bratislava and Budapest and CEE countries make a very positive and favorable impression on them.

The press trip started on Tuesday after the arrival by a dinner for all journalists in the Lotte Hotel Seoul, which provided executive rooms. Conveniently located in the heart of Seoul’s central business district, it is a perfect place to hold meetings of all kinds. Adjacent to a major shopping and commercial center, it is the primary hospitality choice for VIP’s visiting Korea. Lotte Hotel Seoul features two hotels – Main Building and New Wing – with a total of 1,120 guest rooms combined. It has many meeting venues that include the largest Crystal Ballroom with capacity of 1,200 persons. The hotel offers something special: one floor exclusively for women. It is splendid for shopping: check in the hotel and immediately set out to the Lotte Shopping Mall where you can buy luxurious brands with the TAX free bonus. Except of this the hotel has approximately 14 different types of rooms including Presidential Suites (2) with 123 square meters, a Royal Suite (1) with 354 square meters and there is another Royal Suite with 460 square meters in the New Wing.

The company Lotte Hotels & Resorts owns hotels not only in Seoul but also in other cities like Jeju, Busan, Ulsan as well as abroad in Russia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam  and the United States. The Lotte Jeju Resort located on the Korean island Jeju (Jeju Villas) was opened in 2012. The company plans to have more than 40 hotels and to become one of the TOP three brands in Asia by 2018. It offers high-class luxury services delivered from heart to heart, lays big stress on services and truly natural behavior in the approach to guests, which we experienced too and I can confirm it.

On Wednesday, the UIA Associations Round Table Asia 2014, which took place in the Plaza Hotel and a meeting with ASAE representatives (The Center  for Association Leadership), Greta Kotler and Michael Kim, were on the agenda. High standard of the Plaza Hotel that meets the requirements of the most demanding clients and is located right next to the City Hall in the center of the city was even strengthened by renovation of the hotel in 2010. Associative meetings as the essential part of MICE business are very perspective because if corporations cancel and limit business trips and meetings during an economic crisis, associations do not do anything like this. UIA puts together associations with “non-profit” orientation. They have roughly 25 thousand international associations in their database and regularly send newsletters with information to all of them. UIA provides various educational programs about organization of events to its members. As some of the associations did not even know that they were a part of the MICE industry. Associations are very interesting for MICE providers from financial point of view.

The press trip was excellently organized: everything was running according to the agenda and precisely in time to the minute. The company TRAESCO arranged transport of delegates. We must appreciate and compliment the professionalism as well as friendliness of the Seoul Convention Bureau representatives, Maureen O’Crowley, Bora Kim, Gaeyeon Park and to all those who participated in the press trip. The agenda was very broad and busy but at the same time it provided balanced activities. Except of hotels’ and venues’ inspections, participation in UIA round table discussions, we also had the opportunity to try cooking of Korean specialties in the Korea House. Korea House is a comprehensive complex representing traditional Korean culture. A number of possibilities for exciting activities are offered to conference delegates, incentive groups as well as to corporations in the Korea House to get to know the local culture, music, dances and delicious food.

Also a round table with SMA members (Seoul MICE Alliance) and discussions with very useful information were a part of the press trip. SMA members were the following: the companies PEOPLE-X and MECI from PCO’s, further on Jane Tour DMC, Cosmo-Jin Tour and JW Marriott Seoul. Meetings with SMA members took place in the JW Marriott Seoul Hotel that has a Grand Ballroom able to hold up to 1,000 persons.

GM of the JW Marriott Seoul Hotel, Mr. Matthew Cooper, advised that the company Marriott owned 16 percent of all hotels in Seoul. We talked about attractiveness  of Seoul, which is a surprising and creative destination where modern and traditional elements both play a role and where you can see dynamic development. It is a brilliant “shopping” destination developing ecological approach lately. The city is surrounded by mountains and green areas. The description “intriguing” is suitable for the destination. Also medical tourism is popular and it is a trend to connect incentive trips with thorough medical examinations.

We visited the biggest exhibition area COEX Convention & Exhibition Center located in the heart of Gangham, Seoul’s business district. Nearly 230 exhibitions and over 2,000 conferences are hosted annually. COEX is a part of the WTCS Complex (World Trade Center Seoul). The entire complex includes also 3 five stars for a total of 2,000 guests, a casino, a shopping center, a theatre, 150 restaurants and others. There will be  the “C-Festival” in May 2015 where the expected number of participants, visitors and delegates is 3,000,000.  WTCS also includes the City Airport Terminal where you can check-in as at an airport, so it is very practical for fairs and other events. A true MICE city all-inclusive, you do not have to go anywhere and have everything close at hand at a single place.

Hotel Loft is a brand new (opened in October 2014) four star hotel worth of your attention. A beautifully colorful hotel, designed close to COEX and Incheon International Airport, so if you visit or organize some event in COEX, a fair or a congress, this hotel is certainly a good choice. The total number of rooms is 188  and there are 3 meeting rooms, too.

Seoul combines traditional and modern architecture. An inspection of the latest developers’ projects was a part of the press trip. Dongdaemum Design Plaza (DDP) unveiled its futuristic and eco-friendly shape to the world in March 2014. This multi-purpose cultural complex is built with a total floor area of 85,368 square meters and was designed by the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid. Some Sevit, opened in April 2014, is the highly-anticipated floating venue, the nation’s first artificially created island. It is a great venue for Gala dinners when the building is lightened by various colors and the individual colors pass little by little.

The outstanding last dinner took place in the Millenium Seoul Hilton and consisted  of a luxurious sea food buffet in the Cilantro restaurant. Very creative cuisine  for gourmets. Except of this, there are 8 restaurants with the most different focus in the hotel. The hotel has six floors of Executive rooms, suites and lounges and 7 meeting rooms totaling 17,140 square ft. Capacity of the biggest Grand Ballroom is 850 persons. In total there are 331 Deluxe and 115 Premium rooms  with great views over the green hills and the city of Seoul. The hotel disposes of a wonderful swimming pool and a fitness center.

What our international group enjoyed the most was the drive around the evening city in limousines of the company Seoul Rent A Car that owns 130 limousines and other cars totaling 295 vehicles and delicious Korean specialties from local restaurants Min’s Club, Sulfur Duck Restaurant and Cham Sut Gol that can be recommended for group trips to test the Korean cuisine if you do not want to directly learn how  to prepare these specialties (in Korea House).

If somebody invites you to a press trip, it is very difficult to criticize something but nothing could be reprehended to this trip or destination, we can only warmly recommend it for your MICE events.

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