Seoul: One Step at a Time

14th Apr, 2021

One of the frontrunners of corporate events and conferences in Asia, Seoul rolled out a new PLUS SEOUL programme to further help the industry recover to pre-COVID-19 levels.

As many other global MICE destinations, Seoul had a challenging year with few expected events - even though they were hosted successfully under strict quarantine procedures after the initial wave of the outbreak had passed. Just a few months later, the industry faced yet another interruption of offline events due to the second upsurge in infected cases. Then, the rise of online solutions has seen a transformation of many delayed events into an online or hybrid format.

“There is also an acceleration of meetings technology within the industry from existing companies implementing such services, as well as start-ups coming up with innovative solutions,” says Jihyun Kim (right picture), director at Seoul Convention Bureau (SCB).

Under the topic ‘Exploring ways for the MICE industry to move forward in the COVID-19 era’, Seoul MICE ON took place last November to lend a hand on this pressing conversation. Collaboration with Seoul MICE Alliance (SMA) is a big part of withstanding the ecosystem of Seoul’s MICE industry, as Kim states: “SCB organised a campaign titled ‘Stand Strong Together’ with SMA members to boost positive atmosphere and resilience and continued this cooperation in a following campaign by promoting unique venues to our residents.”

In Seoul, the size of on-site meetings shrank following the quarantine measures guideline released from the central government. SCB is providing support for on-site and online events with disinfection services, provision of basic PPE materials and loan of thermal imaging cameras. “Hybrid events are to receive financial support or even the Seoul MICE World, which is a virtual booth to experience the cultural atmosphere of online Seoul,” Kim adds.

For Seoul, it seems that more time is needed before borders are reopened and large-scale MICE events are resumed. Thus, the focal point of the SCB's work is still the vitality and presence of the Seoul MICE ecosystem. “Most of the works are organised around this to secure a faster recovery,” Kim tells us. “We are producing 360 VR videos to promote venues and services and developing a virtual team building programme to attract future visitors to Seoul.”

Convention centres took the past year as a period to equip themselves with advanced technologies, in preparation for the new normal era. In particular, COEX, Seoul’s largest venue, played a leading role by setting up a strategic partnership with NexTech AR, a Canadian technology provider company, and changed the face of its MICE events by taking on virtual AR. According to the local bureau, digital transformation has existed for some time and the pandemic only served as an accelerator for this change. This was the backdrop for a new virtual platform that depicts the facilities and leading sites of the Seoul convention tour, adding up another tool to their virtual portfolio. “We also want to invest in building databases of local associations that can connect with international ones for future events, as well as local companies for potential business opportunities,” Kim says.

As the Seoul Tourism Organization is dedicated to building a tourism ecosystem with city residents, SCB will follow a sustainable pathway to create synergies with other players in the MICE industry. A breath of trust and hope from South Korea.

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