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Korean capital lauded for its advanced infrastructure

MICE industry leaders meet in Seoul

Top meetings industry leaders met in Seoul on November 23 during Korea’s largest MICE industry trade event to discuss the latest trends and share their insights on the future of the field. The discussion led by Samuel Koo, CEO of the Seoul Tourism Organization, after the opening of the Korea MICE Expo brought together top figures from the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Business Events Sydney, and British consultancy Fast Future Research.

Of the many issues discussed at the meeting, such as green initiatives and the role of the meetings industry in society, one recurring topic was how new technology will affect the industry in the future. Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA, said, “Many companies have now invested in high-tech conference rooms and good broadband connectivity, and inevitably this type of technology is going to replace small, routine meetings. However, once you get above 40-50 participants, it become far less efficient to do that. It’s also important to build a long-term relationship, and you can’t do that in the beginning through technology – that has to be done face-to-face.” Sirk went on to explain that the use of cutting-edge technology has led to hybrid meetings that utilize web conferences and live streaming in order to reach greater numbers of participants.

Didier Scaillet, Chief Development Officer of MPI, believes that technology will never completely replace live meetings, and he also feels there is great potential for hybrid meetings, especially in Seoul. “The design component is going to be essential. It’s going to be expensive to bring participants together from a human capital standpoint, a financial standpoint, and increasingly from a carbon standpoint, so you have to maximize technology such as social media and bandwidth capabilities…Seoul has one of the best infrastructures in the world in terms of 3G and 4G technology. It’s very hard to move to a 4G environment, and Seoul was one of the first to do so,” he said.

John Hutchinson, CEO of Business Events Sydney, added, “Seoul has perceptively looked at what the future brings. It has developed industries that the West has not. It looks at technology, design, and innovation as the future. It has thrown out old ideas, and adopted new ones. On top of that, it has an ingredient that is essential for securing events, and that is a collaborative force across the community.”

Seoul, Sydney, and London are founding members of the Future Convention Cities Initiative (FCCI), a global partnership of forward-thinking cities set up to foster cooperation and share knowledge in an effort to promote the growth of the international meetings industry. Earlier this year, Seoul spearheaded efforts to launch the FCCI, which is now slowly gaining member cities from countries all over the world.

This type of preparation for imminent changes in the industry will be crucial for convention cities that wish to continue to enjoy success. Martin Sirk advised, “You need to look over your shoulder because what’s happening across the whole region [of Asia] is an absolute explosion of competition…Anybody in our industry who stands still is going to go backwards, comparatively.”

In regards to Seoul’s meetings industry, Sirk also said, “It is admired and feared. Competitors worry about Seoul, because they see that Seoul is doing many innovative things. In the last few years, Seoul has become one of the most aggressively marketed cities in the world. There isn’t anybody in the industry who is not aware that Seoul is a meetings destination and that it wants their business. In terms of profile, it has raised itself very, very high.“

Rohit Talwar, project manager of the FCCI and CEO of Fast Future Research, likened Seoul’s meetings industry to Spain’s national football team. “For a long time, Spain was an improving country. They were getting better and better at their technical skills, and they became a top 5 country in world football. However, what Spain realized is that by doing the same thing, they weren’t going to move up any further. They really had to change the way they played, and because they did, they are now world champions. And I think Seoul is exactly the same now. Having gotten into the top league of the conventions industry, now it’s about working really smart for the next few years.”

Fast Future Research recently released Phase 1 of its Convention 2020 Report, which is a study that analyzes changes in the meetings industry. The Seoul Tourism Organization is a platinum sponsor of the study, and will use the results to actively prepare for challenges it faces in the MICE field.

During the meeting, Talwar mentioned that preparing for global changes and the need for specialization will be essential for Seoul’s meetings industry. “The business cycle is becoming compressed. When something happens in one place in the world, everyone can instantly copy it and adopt the idea…It’s expensive to keep competing about these things, and the intensity of the competition really requires Seoul to play to where its talents are: design, innovation, and speed of execution. These are things that Seoul can really win with.”

The representatives at the meeting were some of the many panelists and speakers at the Seoul MICE Forum, which was a series of lectures and panels that featured top meetings industry professionals. The Seoul MICE Forum was organized by the Seoul Tourism Organization, and it ran concurrently with the Korea MICE Expo from November 24-25.

The STO is a joint venture launched by the city and private enterprise in February 2008 with a core mission to promote Seoul as a convention and tourism destination. The Seoul Convention Bureau, a division of the STO, represents Seoul’s meetings industry and business tourism interests.