South Korea as an Incentive Destination

Seoul Lotte World Tower

Photo Credit: youtravel.com.au

by John Crowe

I recently attended a FAM to South Korea hosted by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), who is very keen to grow their MICE business to the destination. Since I had never travelled to Korea before, my knowledge was limited.  At the same time, KTO’s knowledge of the incentive and meeting business was limited creating an opportunity to learn from both sides.  Our small group of 6 held several meetings prior to the trip creating a theme of “Plan your FAM”.

I checked off my first box of incentive travel planning by discovering non-stop air from Toronto to Seoul is offered by both Air Canada and Korean Airlines.  The 13-hour flight is a long one, but as always flying non-stop is a huge benefit and critical for many incentive groups.

Is South Korea, more specifically Seoul ready for incentive and meeting business?  On all accounts, the answer is a resounding “YES”. The infrastructure is in place including hotel product, restaurants, entertainment venues, quality DMC’s and plenty of unique tourist attractions incorporating local culture and history.

Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace  Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

We were lucky enough to stay at the very incentive worthy Four Seasons Seoul. Centrally located with an amazing staff and service, this hotel can easily accommodate an incentive program or meeting. Nearby are the Park Hyatt Seoul and Grand Intercontinental Seoul Parnas Hotel.  These properties border Coex which is Seoul’s state of the art convention centre creating the perfect fit for larger conferences and meetings.

If your clients prefer a local brand, the Lotte hotel brand offers 5-star properties in central locations with a more traditional Korean flair. 

Four Seasons Hotel Seoul Lounge  Photo Credit: DailyKongfidence

Four Seasons Hotel Seoul Lounge

Photo Credit: DailyKongfidence

Easily the highlight of the trip for me was being able to visit the DMZ (demilitarized zone).  This is the famous border between North Korea and South Korea.  Our group actually had the opportunity to “step” into North Korea.  As far as bragging rights and unique experiences go for an incentive program, this must be close to the top.

Demilitarized Zone

Demilitarized Zone

We also, experienced an authentic Korean dinner at Korea House, an exclusive venue ideal for smaller groups as well as Temple Life with Monks, Korean BBQ and Seoul’s famous fried chicken and beer.

Seoul Nightlife  Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Seoul Nightlife

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Seoul is a cosmopolitan city offering many things to many people. Koreans understand hospitality and the value of tourism. Many speak English so ease of communicating makes navigating and information gathering a breeze. Seoul checks all boxes for incentive travel and as long as your delegates don’t mind a long flight, Seoul is very willing and capable to host programs aimed at the MICE market.

Outside Gyeongbokgung Palace  Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Outside Gyeongbokgung Palace

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Diving lesson from a Haenyeo, or “sea woman”, a tradition of free-diving in water more than 20 feet deep to harvest seafood by hand

Diving lesson from a Haenyeo, or “sea woman”, a tradition of free-diving in water more than 20 feet deep to harvest seafood by hand