BusinessKorea held an interview with Lim Ok-ki, Director General of Investment Bureau, Seoul Metropolitan Government, to inquire about the city’s plans and strategies to promote tourism for the upcoming years.
Q: Despite threats from H1N1 flu and global economic recession, the number of foreign visitors to Korea exceeded 7.8 million. What do you think are the factors behind these good figures?
A: The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s and the Korean government’s various joint projects and strenuous efforts to promote tourism have now come to fruition. In particular, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been putting its utmost effort in promoting Seoul as an international tourist destination city since 2008, pushing forward with various overseas marketing tools. As a result, Seoul was ranked No.3 in the New York Times’ list of “31 Places to Go in 2010” and ranked No.1 on AC Nielsen’s list of the “Cities You Want to Visit” among all Asian cities in both 2008 and 2009.
Q: Seoul has a powerful brand name value. Tell us about the city government’s distinguished marketing strategies to further promote the city in the world’s tourism industry.
A: Tourism has become a critical, high-value added business worldwide, and a new growth engine for the economy. Seoul city government has developed various strategies to revitalize the tourism industry and attract foreign tourists to Seoul. In the meantime, the Korean government has designated 2010 to 2012 as special years to promote Korea’s tourism and selected Seoul as its partnering city.
Seoul is planning to focus on the convention, medical tourism and Chinese VIP tourist sectors as they are known to be value-added business sectors as well as contributing to job creation. In particular, the convention and medical tourism sectors are known to create twice as many new jobs than other industries, and ultimately leading to revitalization of Seoul’s economy. Starting from 2010, the Visa Wave Program for Chinese tourists will begin to be partially enacted, and therefore, special tour packages targeting Chinese high government officials and the upper/wealthy classes are expected to generate higher profit margins.
Q: The G20 Summit will be held in Seoul, Korea in November this year. How does the Seoul government plan to utilize this opportunity to promote tourism in Seoul?
A: Not only will the leaders of G20 member countries attend the summit, but also the heads of the IFM (Institute for Financial Markets), IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and WTO (World Trade Organization) as well as CEOs and executives from major global corporations. We are going to design and provide customized tour programs just for them so that the Seoul’s image will be improved, enhancing Seoul’s brand name value. Considering the attendees’ extremely tight schedules, we are going to present various packages, such as a two-hour tour, a half-day tour, and an all-day tour, meeting each person’s individual needs and desires. Our goal is to impress them and make them return to Seoul for a real tour later.
Q: How is the Seoul Metropolitan Government drawing support from citizens of Seoul?
A: On top of tourism infrastructure, such as world-famous landmarks and tour spots, pleasant, comfortable and convenient conditions, and environment are also important factors in attracting foreign tourists. Seoul citizens’ kindness and warm smile can provide visitors with pleasant memories and good impressions of Korea so that they will want to re-visit Seoul as well as spreading their good experience by word-of-mouth. In an attempt to educate Seoul citizens on the importance of these factors, Seoul city government has been running the “Hospitality Improvement Campaign” since 2009, a campaign the city has already been conducting among tour industry workers since 2007.
Q: Is there anything that you would say to Seoul citizens and our readers?
A: Seoul is a unique city, where over 600 years of history and cutting-edge IT technology coexist. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is doing all it can to reach its goal, which is to become one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Not only are we focusing on building tourism infrastructure but also an integrated city where design, culture and art come together to offer tourists unlimited possibilities. We live in an attractive city that has a lot to offer so let’s be proud and impress tourists with our warm hospitality.