Korea now ranks second in the world and first in Asia for hosting global congress; accounting for 7.5 percent of all international meetings held worldwide in 2015, according to an overview of the UIA’s International Meetings Statistics Report 57th edition published in June this year.
Of the 891 meetings held in Korea during that period, Busan, Korea’s second-largest city, hosted 150 of them earning, it a global city ranking of 11.
This no doubt came as welcome news for Busan, which has been steadily growing its infrastructures and nurturing its reputation as a serious MICE tourism destination for a number of years.
Busan is one of the world’s fastest growing convention cities and the preferred MICE destination of the medical and science industries.
It has high-speed internet connectivity at the majority of its facilities, a modern transport network, international standard hotels and numerous tourist attractions from idyllic beaches and luxury shopping malls to traditional temples and heritage sites.
It has three primary high-tech, multi-purpose MICE venues. The Busan Exhibition Center (BEXCO), which is Korea’s second largest convention facility offering 90,000 square meters of exhibition space. The Nurimaru APEC House which can comfortably accommodate as many as 800 guests.
Plus, the Busan Cinema Center which is best known for hosting the annual International Film Festival and can seat up to 4,300 people.
The role of the BTO
Busan’s MICE activities are supported by a number or organizations, but it is the Busan Tourism Organization (BTO) that appears to play one of the most significant roles in promoting MICE in the city and facilitating operational management.
This year successful marketing by BTO resulted in 12 large-scale incentive travel deals, one of which was reported to be Shanghai Weina Cosmetics who sent 2,000 of its lead sales force to Busan this month for a bespoke incentive tour.
This figure is expected to rise next year following promotional events held in Guangzhou and Shenzhen in November which reportedly garnered consultation with as many as 200 companies.
This year’s success looks set to continue with multiple events already slated for 2017 including the World Astrophysics Conference, the 12th Congress of Asia & Oceania Thyroid Association, and the 6th Asian Congress of Abdominal Radiology.
Owing to the city’s popularity a number of events are also planned for 2018 and beyond. But perhaps the biggest win, Busan has been elected to host the 37th International Geological Congress, due to be held at BEXCO in 2024.
The event is expected to attract somewhere in the region of 11,000 domestic and international participants.
The future of MICE
As the city’s reputation for world-class MICE tourism gains momentum, the question on everyone’s lips is: what’s next for Busan?
There are several projects underway in the city, which is hoped will entice more MICE planners and organizers to consider Busan as a hub for international congress events, meetings, and incentive tours.
This includes plans to open a further 18 hotels over the next four years; a 4.1 trillion KRW expansion program for Gimhae International Airport; and a colossal redevelopment of Busan’s port, which is expected to be complete by 2020 at the cost of 14.7 trillion KRW.