Daegu: A Pioneering Convening Hub

27th Jan, 2023

To keep up with the post-pandemic challenge, the Korean city of Daegu envisioned a new business events district targeting the Daegu 5+1 Growth Industries with a collection of infrastructure that has been catering to all MICE hosting angles.

Sometimes overshadowed by the glittering capital Seoul, Daegu, South Korea’s third largest urban agglomeration − has been banking heavily on economic development underpinned by business events. After the establishment of the Daegu Convention and Visitors Bureau (DaeguCVB) in 2003, Daegu became the first city with a dedicated convention bureau and has since written a huge story under the global spotlight as a specialist in hosting outstanding international conferences. Recognised by the UIA as one of the top 10 cities for hosting international conferences in Asia, the city has collected consecutive successes evidenced by the 2013 World Energy Conference, the 2015 World Water Forum, the 2019 IBRO World Neuroscience Congress, and the 2022 World Gas Conference.

Daegu’s new MICE district is home to EXCO, the region’s premier convention centre and the Kyungpook University, a pillar of training and talent creation for the region’s MICE industry, in addition to other services such as integrated lodging, shopping malls, and cultural service platforms. “When the city got approval from the central government, we wanted to achieve active cooperation between event organisers, participants, and local business people to leverage conventions as a strategy for developing local industries. Conventions in Daegu needed to become business-oriented conventions,” says Charlie Bae, CEO of DaeguCVB. The figure of the “Daegu Ambassador” contributed greatly to this – an advisor profile that helps to facilitate the development of conferences in the city, creating greater synergy between companies and the MICE community. “We have appointed some professors and experts who work in international conventions, and thanks to their assistance and participation, we have managed to attract a large number of conventions, such as SIGRAPH Asia 2022, the International Congress of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics 2024, or the World Congress of Biomaterials 2024.”

During the 1960s up to the 1980s, Daegu used to be the economic engine of Korea, especially recognised for its textile and machinery industries. On the leap to modernity, this first-class business city offers a glimpse into its current economy with an industrial complex focused on water, energy, future vehicles, medical, robotics industries and − plus (+) one − smart city industry. “We tried to attract conventions in these new industries to be held in Daegu and contribute to the development of the 5+1. Similarly, the facilities and human networks of these industries have contributed to attract more conventions to Daegu,” says Bae. From 1 July 2022, the city government will spearhead a new package of priority industries: Robotics, Healthcare, Semi-conductors, Urban Air Mobility, ABB (Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain), and the Daegu CVB’s convention strategy will recalibrate its focus on the aforementioned industries.

"We are not sure if business events could be considered political actors in our ecosystem, but they have definitely brought about substantial changes that should not be ignored"

In the convention industry, the direct expenses of attendees are often mentioned as benefits, however, compared to the tourism industry, this turnover is much smaller. Urged to comment on this, Charlie Bae notes that “beyond the economic impact, we emphasise the medium and long-term positive benefits of our conventions.” For a relatively lesser-known city like Daegu in the international community, high-profile conventions help to boost its profile and brand image on the global map. “Participants at CME 2013 were world leaders not only in the energy field − such as the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, then the world’s largest company by sales revenue, and the CEO of Saudi Aramco, the largest company by total assets − but also in whole other industries.” More than 3,000 industry leaders came to Daegu to participate in this mega congress that led to the expansion of EXCO, the capture of other major conventions, and the designation of the energy industry as one of the 5+1 new growth drivers.

“Each convention needs a different approach. For example, when we hosted the 2022 World Gas Conference (pictured above), we thought of a plan to develop the hydrogen industry after its outcome,” Bae tells us. At the 2015 WWF, ten heads of state such as the Hungarian Prime Minister and the Egyptian President, and more than 100 ministers and deputy ministers attended the conference along with more than 5,000 foreign participants. After its holding, the Forum managed to attract the central government’s Korea Water Cluster project, the Korean Water Technology Certification Institute, Lotte Chemical and 35 other water companies. And if these examples weren’t enough, the 2019 IBRO World Neuroscience Congress has propelled the city to position itself at the top of brain research, securing a €9.5 million national government budget for research projects, infrastructure, and a domino effect to secure related conventions such as the World Congress for Neuro-Rehabilitation 2026 and the Federation of Asian and Oceanic Physiological Societies Congress 2023.

Furthermore, with the Open Innovation Digital Open Lab project, Daegu will be premised on the development of innovative devices through the convergence of new ICT technologies and with different industries. With a budget of KRW 11.9 billion, the project aims to build a local foundation to support innovative devices based on data, 5G network and artificial intelligence. “We’ve noticed the changes in requests from hosts and convention attendees. A lot of effort has been put into establishing infrastructure like online studio, XR studio and meeting rooms optimised for hybrid conventions.” In addition, Daegu Virtual MICE Town, based on Metaverse technology, is helping to increase the immersion and interest of both online and offine visitors.

For sustainable conventions, Daegu CVB obtained the ISO 20121 certificate several years ago and there are discussions about ESG initiatives in the Korean MICE industry. “While we recognise the importance and need for sustainable conventions, we are still in the early stages of implementing the initiatives due to lack of budget and manpower, among other things that have worsened since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” concludes Bae.

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