Seoul’s diminishing fortunes in meetings and events in 2017 – when business reduced by almost 80 per cent – may see a revival with the advent of the Winter Olympics in 2018. The absence of Chinese groups due to strained bilateral ties between the two countries and a threat of attack by North Korea has severely affected the inbound MICE movement to South Korea. Seoul was impacted negatively as the capital city is the gateway to other MICE destinations in the country as well as one boasting of most attractive venues and attractions for Chinese visitors.
MICE buyers in IMEX America held in October expressed nervousness over committing themselves to the destination due to the media coverage of North Korea’s threats of aggression, destabilizing the sanctity and safety that Seoul has always projected. However, Seoul is banking on the change of world perception with a successful conclusion of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February 2018, with communications now reported to be ongoing.
Jin Hyeok Park, director of Seoul Convention Bureau said: “The world will regain confidence in Seoul as a safe destination for events. It isn’t just the spectators, Seoul will also benefit from corporate sponsors flying in to support their teams. We are talking to insurance incentive groups to time their programmes with the Olympic Games as a way of fulfilling their CSR or teambuilding objectives.”
The good sign is that bilateral ties between China and South Korea may be thawing and some Chinese operators have started selling MICE groups to Seoul with effect from Q4 of 2017.