Korean capital Seoul enjoys tourism peace dividend

South Korea’s capital Seoul is one of the major beneficiaries of inbound tourism to the North Asian creative and economic powerhouse. In 2018, says Seoul Tourism Organization President & CEO Jaesung Rhee, 80% of Korea’s 15.3 million international visitors spent some time in the city.

In part, this is down to the popularity of phenomena such as K-Pop, K-Drama and K-Food. But the city itself has also has a lot to offer: “It is a highly attractive tourism capital in which tradition and modernity co-exist, as well as a global tourism city that offers a wealth of cultural options and a dynamic lifestyle,” says Rhee. “As a result, Seoul has put a lot of effort into promoting itself and offering visitors a seamless experience. The city regards tourism as a high value-added industry and is making various efforts to transition towards a qualitative improvement.”

To this end, says Rhee, Seoul is “also making a name for itself in the MICE sector, in which it is ranked the third best city for international conferences. MICE enhances Seoul’s standing as a truly global city.”

Seoul is one of the most advanced cities in the world in terms of technology, and this expertise extends to tourism. “In January 2019, we introduced our Smart Tourism Team,” says Rhee, “and to promote a smart tourism system in Seoul we operate a website (visitseoul.net) and mobile app (I Tour Seoul). In addition, we have introduced our Discover Seoul Pass. To offer greater convenience to FITs (free independent travellers) visiting Seoul, the pass offers free admission to 16 tourist attractions and can be used as a public transportation card.”

The STO has attended ITB Berlin for ve consecutive years and this year is focusing especially on FITs. Among its key themes are “Delicious, Relaxing, Historic, Extreme, K-wave, Fashionable and Exclusive.” Rhee says he has encountered a very warm reception from European operators this year, which he believes is down to the positive peace talks taking place between South and North Korea.

Photo: Jaesung Rhee, President & CEO, Seoul Tourism Organization