he view from the glass-paneled and almost 500 meters high observatory of Seoul's new signature Seoul Lotte World Tower is truly breathtaking. This glittering cityscape is supposed to be one of the first "Smart Cities" of the world? The term denotes an intelligent city in which all sectors are networked and interact with each other: traffic, public utilities, buildings, infrastructure and mobility, supply and disposal. In Seoul, it appears as if this vision has come true in many ways, and it is obvious that this not only creates added value for the inhabitants, but also for event organizers and business travelers as well. And the information and communication technology ICT put to practical use here also opens new perspectives for expos, meetings and events. In spite of the architectural transformation skyscrapers have caused in Seoul's cityscape, "the city has managed to maintain the delicate balance between preserving its traditions and the development of modern technologies", is how Jin-Hyeok Park, Director of the Seoul Convention Bureau SCB, summarizes his sentiments. It's hard to find any other major Asian metropolis that has so well-preserved its historic origins. Visitors will still find traditional markets, green gardens, old city districts such as Bukchon Hanok Village and the five spacious palaces built by Korea's last ruler in the Joseon dynasty. A visit to Changdeokgung Palace should be part of any incentive program. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List and can be toured along with the Forbidden Garden. Visitors may witness the ritual change of the gate guard every morning at 11:00 hours.
Seoul acts as a smart city, a metropolis in which all sectors are connected. PHOTO: DONGDAEMUN DESIGN PLAZA
But business usually comes before sightseeing. The city's by far largest congress center CEOX is located in Seoul's southerly business district. It has an exhibition capacity of 36,000 square meters, expo halls and multifunctional meeting rooms. The eight-language simultaneous translation system is an interesting feature, as of course German (and many other European languages) are not frequently spoken in Seoul. The underground levels of this enormous complex are linked to each other; there are international restaurants, theater, an airport terminal as well as three 5-star hotels including the Grand Intercontinental Seoul Parnas featuring 515 rooms, a convention zone and a ballroom for 1,500 guests.
It's not far from here to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. This futuristic building, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, is a popular venue for fashion and art events and is structured into two expo and convention halls each as well as congress capacities for 1,500 delegates. Situated directly on the Han River, this spacy Floating Island Convention Center featuring a number of rooms, auditoria and a congress hall is illuminated at nighttime with neon colors. As a contrast, the traditional-Korean Samcheonggak with smaller rooms and a tree garden is almost a quaint oasis in the vast sea of houses.
Die Dragon City, Heimat von vier Accor Hotels mit 1.700 Zimmern. PHOTO: ACCOR HOTELS
Seoul features a large number and enormous variety of overnight accommodations, among these 27 5-star hotels with a total of 13,335 rooms as well as 43 4-star hotels with almost 12,000 rooms. The logos of Four Seasons, Hilton, Intercontinental, Hyatt or JW Marriot are just a few of the international hotel brands visible from far, and this array is augmented by local 5-star brands such as Shilla, Walkerhill and Lotte Hotel. Many of these hotel chains have made major investments in the past years to be able to provide perfect conditions and facilities to event and convention visitors for business functions. This applies for example to the Walkerhill, situated on a hill in the midst of natural surroundings with a panorama view on the city and the Han River. The complex encompasses two hotels, the Grand Walkerhill and the Vista Walkerhill Seoul with a total of 800 rooms, and can accommodate up to 800 persons in the Vista Hall conference facility. On top of that, there are various options for sports and entertainment, and not to forget the Michelin-star Restaurant Ondal as well as other restaurants with Japanese, Chinese and Western cuisine to please the palate.
The Le Meridien Seoul redesigned as convention hotel is a perfect choice for art lovers. On a walkabout through the hotel, GM Martin Sax explained: "We have numerous originals on display from the lobby to the attic, in the rooms and our five restaurants."
“WE HAVE THE FASTEST INTERNET CONNECTION”
Jin-Hyeok Park, Director Seoul Convention Bureau, about Seoul as the world’s leading smart city and one of the safest cities. tw tagungswirtschaft: What are is Seoul’s USP for meetings and incentives? Jin-Hyeok Park: Seoul is selected as a MICE destination because of its secure environment, warm hospitality, historical legacy, dynamic cityscape, endless entertainment, and exquisite cuisine. The city is notably unique because of its modernity, high-tech facilities and services. We are known as the World’s leading smart city. Currently we have the fastest Internet connection in the world - it’s almost four times faster than the world average. For the visitors, moving around in Seoul is a doddle and the city itself offers plenty of things to see and do. There are attractions, from traditional markets and UNESCO world heritage historical palaces and sites, to the impressive skyscrapers of Gangnam that houses conglomerates such as Samsung and LG and its new landmark Seoul Lotte World Tower.
How is the city doing in terms of business tourism? The UIA (Union of International Associations) has ranked Seoul as top convention destination for the past years. Most recent, Seoul was ranked 3rd top convention city. Even more, Seoul has been ranked 10th last year by ICCA (International Congress & Convention Association) in their worldwide ranking of total registered meetings per city with a total of 137 meetings.
Security is currently one of the important issues. Is Seoul a safe city safe? Not to be confused with North Korea, South Korea is a democracy and one of the top safest countries in the world to travel, because of extremely low number of criminal cases. There is a reason why South Korea makes it to the top: the use of guns is completely illegal in the entire country. Believe it or not, but South Korea has a Crime Rate variable of just 25.27 in 2016 which rates 74.73 % safe. Right underneath Korea you can find Finland which is 75.37 % safe. Whereas China with a crime rate of 33.90 has been rated 66 % safe, United States 51.24% safe and a European country Belgium for instance, only 55.49 % safe. PETRA MEWES
The spectacular Dragon City with four Accor hotel brands opened just recently in autumn of this year. The gigantic complex encompasses 1,700 rooms, restaurants and a unique 4-story traversal rooftop entertainment complex as bridge between the high buildings. The Lounge Bars and separate party zones complement 17 meeting rooms and two large banquet halls seating 1,740 guests.
All those planning exhibitions, roadshows, conferences and/or meetings in the city should first get in touch with the Seoul MICE Alliance (SMA). This partnership operated by the City of Seoul and the Seoul Tourism Organization represents approximately 250 suppliers to the market, among these convention centers, hotels as well as transport and entertainment operators and service-providers; all these united under the brand "PLUS Seoul". This support arrangement is available to both event organizers as well as participants, who can benefit from Seoul Welcome Kits, MICE city tours or the Seoul MICE-Card. The support program provides for administrative assistance and even financial sponsoring: International conferences are subsidized with up to 150 million South Korean won (KRW), while company events are eligible for up to KRW100 million. The program is augmented by specials, which since this year has been including the Seoul 7017 tour. Here is where we come back to the Smart City mentioned above: Seoullo 7017 was opened on a disused overhead highway built in 1970. The overpass was converted into a public park early this year with green oases, art zones, shops and cafés exclusively for pedestrians – a green connecting band extending across the city, a green haven in urban design. PETRA MEWES