On Kicking Off Visit Korea Year

VKY Committee Chmn. Shin plans to roll out red carpet to foreign tourists through ¡°smile¡± campaign

This could be the most important year for Korea¡¯s tourism industry as the initial year for the Visit Korea Year (VKY) 2010-2012, as the attraction of foreign tourists has emerged as a means to strengthen national competitive power around the world. The competition to lure an increased number of foreign tourists has heated up and it should be able to cover Korea¡¯s mounting deficit in tourism. The decision to push the VKY program was made a national project at a meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak showing off the crucial importance of the VKY program to Korea. Shin also is chairman of Lotte Group.
NewsWorld President-Publisher Elizabeth M. Oh called on Chairman Shin Dong-bin of the VKY Committee to lend a hand as an English media outlet by telling NewsWorld¡¯s readers what the VKY is all about through an interview with the chairman, who is key to the success of the foreign tourist attraction campaign.
Following are what Chairman Shin had to say during the interview:
Question: What is the background for running the Visit Korea Year 2010-2012 tourism program?
Answer: We think the competition to secure dominance over the world¡¯s tourism market among a great number of countries has been heating up, as the attraction of tourists has become an important means to strengthen national image and power.
Korea declared to kick off the Visit Korea Year 2010-2012 tourist attraction campaign as the need arose to cover the mounting tourism deficit as well as to strengthen its tourism industry¡¯s competitive power at a meeting on March 28, 2008 on the subject of ¡°Strategy for Strengthening the Tourism Industry,¡± presided over by President Lee Myung-bak.
Through the program, we would like to make the people understand what it is all about by holding various events both at home and abroad including festivals, entertainment programs and special tours. The events in the program are also geared toward boosting Korea¡¯s image as a key tourist destination in the world through collective efforts of politics, businesses and industry.
The VKY program won¡¯t be a one-time program, unlike such programs in the past: It will be a multiple, systematic one to create the maximum synergy effects with both short-and-medium term events under a long-term vision and purpose. The VKY Committee is made up of civilians to secure the participation of private companies and also collect overseas tourism attraction programs pushed by many companies and organizations under one roof for maximum effects from the program.
Q: What is the objective set for the number of foreign tourists to visit Korea during the duration of the VKY program?
A: The VKY aims to lure 10 million foreign tourists into Korea in 2012, the target year of the VKY, earning $13 billion in tourist revenue while creating 390,000 jobs, to rank Korea among the 20 largest tourist destinations in the world.
We intend to create the momentum to improve Korea¡¯s tourism structure and its advancement so that the country¡¯s tourism image will improve to rank among the 50 best nations in the world from 112th, according to data in 2008, by upgrading services and attitudes in addition to other strategic matters during the VKY program period.
We plan to take advantage of a number of global events that will take place in Korea from this year through 2012 including the 2010 Seoul Design Conference, the 2011 Daegu IIAF World Championships in Athletics and the 2012 Yeosu Expo and all other events related to those three global events to create an attractive environment to visit Korea through intensive public relations activities. We will try to make touring Korea pleasurable and comfortable for every foreign visitor.
Q: What about the marketing and public relations efforts during the VKY period?
A: We will try to attract foreign arrivals to Korea on a stable basis through a long-term Korea brand marketing campaign by improving attitudes of Koreans through a public campaign to teach them how to make foreign tourists feel they are welcome in Korea. We also will tailor the events annually from year to year and develop high-grade programs to offer different and fresh tour programs each year so that foreign travelers would find Korea new when they make return visits.
In 2010, the Seoul Global Design Capital as a point, various tourism events will take place with such main subjects as design, Hallyu (the Korean wave), city tours, fashion and others. In 2011, the Daegu IIAF World Championships in Athletics, the four-rivers project, low-carbon green tours and Saemankeum, among many others, will be part of the tour programs intended to introduce inland regions of Korea through history, with emphases on the natural, historic and cultural assets of the regions.
In 2012, we will take advantage of the Yeosu Expo to feature what society may be like in the years to come, along with marine tourism and cruise tourism to invigorate Korea¡¯s marine tourism resources. We will combine various public relations means to show to the world the fabulous tourism assets that Korea has through public relations programs related to joint promotions for global events to be held in Korea with the joint subjects in a bid to create a base to propagate Korean tourism all over the world.
Q: What is the status of the preparation for the VKY programs?
A: The Visit Korea Year Committee has been preparing for the VKY in four major areas. The four major areas include segregated marketing in overseas markets, incentives awaiting foreign tourists when they arrive in Korea, high-quality, enjoyable sightseeing locations including events and service improvement campaigns so that foreign tourists will feel they are welcome in Korea.
In detail, we plan to dispatch special missions to such important countries as Japan and China and other key market countries to sell Korean tourism and let the overseas branches of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) hold regular sessions to explain what they can get out of visiting Korea, in particular, during the years when such mega global events will be held as the Seoul Global Design Capital this year, the Daegu World Championships in Athletics in 2011 and the Yeosu Expo in 2012.
We plan to put on very brilliant promotional work and provide high-level tourist products in cooperation with foreign tour agents.
Q: What can you expect in terms of economic effects from the VKY program?
A: We think the program will bring a tremendous lift for our economy, directly and indirectly. A study on the effects of the VKY program estimated that its economic effects this year would amount to $10.781 billion, $11.143 billion in 2011 and $23.35 billion in 2012, in addition to $782 million this year, $1.241 billion in 2011 and $2.335 billion in 2012 in productivity resulting from the program.
The number of jobs created during the VKY period directly or indirectly from foreign tourists visiting the country is projected at 160,061 this year, 165,520 next year and 179,974 in 2012, which would come to a net of 11,621 in 2010, 18,424 in 2011 and 34,659 in 2012.
In addition, the study showed various effects induced by the foreign tourist arrivals during those years in terms of imports, productivity, value-added portion and others that would bring positive effects to the national economy.
Q: What are the plans for infrastructure construction for a successful completion of the VKY program, especially for low to mid-level priced hotels?
A: The expansion of infrastructure and the construction of low to mid-level priced hotels are not work that should be handled by the VKY Committee. Rather, the committee intends to get cooperation from local autonomous entities in taking care of various matters including the expansion of inexpensive lodging facilities and other matters.
As foreign tourists congregate in Seoul mostly, there are some shortages in lodging facilities, but not in local provinces; the occupancy rates of lodging facilities in local regions are not high, which will lead us to disperse the foreign tourists to areas outside of the Seoul area with all kinds of incentives such as tourist products indigenous to a local tradition.
This year, the committee will provide bus transportation services to cities like Jeonju and Gyeongju so that tourists can attend the Hallyu Festival and the Global Food Festival scheduled to be held in those cities.
We plan to provide special training to those who work in the tourist industry, most importantly hotels and other lodging facilities, along with youths on how to be nice to the foreign tourist visiting our shores with programs tailored to their needs, so that in the end, our services to foreign tourist would be upgraded and the foreign visitors would feel they are welcome wherever they go in Korea.
In that regard, we held sessions on Dec. 10 and 11 with travel agents in Japan and China to find out what we can do to improve our services to attract more tourists from those neighboring countries.
In order to have foreign tourists travel around the country and not just Seoul, we plan to set up bus services to local cities and also provide incentives for their shopping and lodging in those cities.
We have been working on a plan to introduce the attractive regions in the country outside Seoul by leading them to attend a number of local festivals such as the Hallyu Festival in Gyeongju, the World Food Festival in Jeonju and the Busan Fireworks Festival and develop tourism products native to those cities in close cooperation with local autonomous entities.
In line with our plan to firmly set up the capacity to handle foreign tourists in the country, we launched the first batch of smile supporters made up of college students and we plan to follow it up with the expansion of the ¡°Smile for Foreign Visitors Campaign¡± by holding such events as the public collection of art objects, the power brokers and others, with public participation as part of the marketing campaign both on and off line to create a booming environment all over the country helpful to a pan-national movement in cooperation with the media to improve services to foreign visitors. nw

Chairman Shin Dong-bin of Visit Korea Year 2010-2012 Committee and also chairman of Lotte Group.


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