Incheon City has striven to improve the software aspects of the industry, such as sightseeing, residence and culture, based on the strengthened hardware foundation to boost the MICE industry. BusinessKorea sat with Ryu Chi-hyun, Director General of International Relations Department at Incheon City, to hear the city's strategy to promote the MICE sector.
Q: How is Incheon City’s competitiveness in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) industry related to its brand image?
A: Incheon City, since the free economic zone was designated in 2003, has turned itself into an international city by moving ahead with various development projects in the Songdo, Yeongjong and Cheongna areas and reinventing Incheon Port and Incheon International Airport.
In a bid to boost the MICE sector, it prepared a comprehensive roadmap in 2007, enacted pertinent ordinances, and established the International Conference Team and the Convention Bureau Team in the municipal government and the Incheon Tourism Organization (ITO), respectively. Furthermore, it has worked on industrial infrastructure by building the Songdo Convensia, opening the Incheon Grand Bridge, and improving infrastructure.
Such efforts have not been limited to the hardware side. It has also striven to improve the software aspects of the industry, such as sightseeing, investment, residence and culture. As a result, Incheon City's brand value ranked third domestically, following Seoul and Busan, at the November 2010 evaluation by the Institute for Industrial Policy Studies.
Q: How has the MICE industry contributed to the regional economy?
A: Well aware of its high economic impact, many countries are now working to nurture their MICE sectors. For example, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and China are doing so by means of budgetary aids, tax incentives, facility investment and so forth. According to the ITO’s 2008 data, participants at international conferences spend on average US$2,488 (not including airfare), 1.95 times more than ordinary tourists in Korea.
Based on this, we have reached the conclusion that those who visited the city between 2009 and 2010 for conferences, e.g., the 2009 Asia Pacific Cities Summit and the regular meeting in 2010 of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), created an economic ripple worth approximately six billion won.
Q: What is the strategy of Incheon City to spur its MICE sector?
A: Incheon’s vision is to become an international conference hub of Northeast Asia. In line with this, the city is building relevant infrastructure and focusing on its growth engines. Ultimately, we intend to invigorate the regional economy by creating high added value by making the most of our MICE sector.
The Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) is home to an increasing number of investment magnets: Songdo Global Campus; Samsung's biosimilar business unit; Northeast Asian office of UNESCAP; UN Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication (UNAPCICT); secretariat of the North East Asia Sub-regional Programme for Environment Cooperation (NEASPEC); R&D centers of multinational companies, and many more. Conventions and business meetings related to those will be held in Incheon, along with international conferences hosted by organizations Incheon is affiliated with, such as the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) and the Union of International Associations (UIA).
To facilitate this, the Incheon MICE Alliance was established last year as a consultative body of private and governmental agencies and research institutes. It is currently offering multifaceted services and incentives to those international events taking place in the city.
Q: What is Incheon’s overseas marketing strategy to increase the MICE sector?
A: It has participated in a number of relevant expos both home and overseas, including: the IMEX expo in Frankfurt, Germany; China Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (CIBTM); and Korea Mice Expo (KME). At these, it has carried out diverse marketing, consulting and sales call activities. Furthermore, it has published newsletters, journals, brochures and advertisements for promotion purposes.
Q: What is Incheon’s current status in regards to MICE infrastructure and how can it distinguish itself in that aspect?
A: The 22 sites in the area can accommodate 68,000 conference-goers. The Songdo Convensia, which opened in 2008 and can hold over 4,000 of them, will double its capacity from 2014, when the second phase of the development project is wrapped up. In the meantime, the Fiera Incheon Complex (FIEX) is scheduled to be completed in 2020, and will feature exhibition facilities, accommodation and euro-style towns.
Incheon is home to 45 resorts and hotels of various classes, with the number of rooms totaling approximately 4,300. Furthermore, more five-star hotels like Yeongjong H2, Daeduk Hotel Songdo and Songdo OK Center will be available from 2014, the year of the Incheon Asian Games.
The Incheon Grand Bridge connects Incheon International Airport, Korea’s biggest trade gateway, with Songdo International City, which is just a 20 minute drive away from the airport. Meanwhile, three million people pass by Incheon Port and its international passenger terminal on average every year, while road and railroad networks link the city with Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.
Q: What do you consider to be Incheon’s unique strength as a MICE venue?
A: Incheon is the location of a world-class airport, bridge and port. No less than 60 major cities with populations of more than one million each are less than 60 minutes flight away, meaning Incheon’s accessibility as a MICE venue is remarkably high.
Furthermore, it owns a number of cultural properties that show the rich and beautiful history of Korea, from the dolmens of prehistoric times to modern ports. There are also various marine ecological resources, such as the mudflats in and around Ongjin County, the Culture Street of Wolmi Island and the tourist attractions of Sorae Pogu.
These days, the area is adding high-tech industry and maritime leisure to its charms by developing the IFEZ and Songdo International City. Looking ahead to the future, Incheon will redouble its appeal as a must-see sightseeing destination, striking a balance between nature and IT.
Back in May this year, the city was officially designated an international convention city of Korea. In doing so, the Korean government was recognizing its potential to become a leading MICE venue. The city will continue to strive to meet the government’s expectations.
Q: Is there any special sector Incheon is specialized in to promote the MICE industry?
A: Since the establishment of the Incheon Medical Tourism Foundation, Incheon has conducted a medical MICE urban marketing campaign. A vision declaration ceremony in this vein was held in May at the Songdo Convensia and attended by personnel from medical societies and institutions. The local government is going to provide diverse administrative and financial assistance to such medical MICE functions hosted in Incheon, while also trying to attract more medical tourism-related conventions through consistent marketing activities. Furthermore, it intends to grow the subsector into what is called business travel-MICE, or BT MICE, a more specific concept derived from the industry.
Q: Please preview major MICE functions scheduled for the second half of 2011 in Incheon
A: : The Global Model UN Conference (GMUN) 2011 will take place between August 10 and 14 at the Songdo Conven-sia under the auspices of the UN Depart-ment of Public Information (UNDPI) and Incheon City. There, college students from all around the world will discuss conflict, poverty, human rights, environment and development issues.
Up until now, over 700 students from 64 countries have registered for the conference. In particular, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will grace the occasion with his presence this year.
Incheon City is preparing some drum, Taekwondo and B-boy performances and shows in order to present Korea’s cultural attractions. In addition, high-schoolers from Incheon will join the event as observers and volunteer workers, giving them the opportunity to increase their awareness and understanding of globalization.