E-connect at Korea Travel Expo

Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), New Delhi office is set to organise its first virtual B2B event for India market – Korea Travel Expo – from June 22-24 this year. Young-Geul Choi, Director, Korea Tourism Organization, New Delhi office, shares what to expect at the event.

Nisha Verma

Over 15 regional tourism boards, attractions and DMCs of Korea are confirmed to exhibit at the Korea Travel Expo, including representatives from Seoul and Busan tourism boards, Jeju Convention & Visitor Bureau and Lotte World with its collection of theme park, aquarium and observatory.

Talking about the aim behind the event, Young-Geul Choi says, “In 2020, due to the unpredictable COVID situation globally, we were unable to organise any kind of B2B connect of our Korean exhibitors for the India market. Currently, as the second wave of COVID is getting under control and many countries have started opening up, we think this is the right time to reconnect with the industry and introduce the latest products and offerings in South Korea, which is preparing itself to reopen for inbound tourism this year. We want Indian travel companies to start focusing on South Korean tour products for outbound travel in the future.”

Commending the resilience the people of India have shown in battling the second wave of infections in the country, Choi adds that as people in the travel industry in India start getting back to their regular work life, Korea Travel Expo will be like a breath of fresh air, and will give them something positive to look forward to. “And, they can start doing what they love, that is meet new people, make connections, and make exciting tour packages & travel products for their customers,” the Director claims.

Choi also believes there is pent-up business travel demand that will happen once the quarantine stay requirement is removed and it may happen this year itself. “However, realistically speaking, in the Indian context, I feel actual free travel will start from spring next year, i.e. March-April 2022,” he says.

The format of the event is very simple, to mimic a real-life exhibition. “It is a three-day event, and the first day we have reserved for ‘by invite only’ buyers who we would be inviting personally. The next two days are open for all Indian travel agents who want to meet our Korean exhibitors. The platform offers the option of both pre-scheduled meetings as well as on-spot meetings by visiting the exhibitor booth as you would do in a physical exhibition. While people wait for their meetings, we will also have an interactive fun page where people can get interesting Korea-related information, watch videos and participate in quiz/ activities to win exciting prizes. We have kept everything very practical and business-focused, and avoided having any preloaded or live presentations or too many interactive features, which at times slow down the interface,” Choi shares.

With tourism guidelines already being framed and South Korea expected to open its borders for inbound tourism this year, the expo is aimed to help reconnect Indian buyers with Korean suppliers so they can start preparing their tour products and packages for sale in the future. “The response we receive from this expo will set the tone for the kind of marketing activities we will do in the rest of 2021,” Choi says.

Catering to Indian travel demands
Indians from different regions travel for different reasons, including business, leisure, VFR, etc., and they have different demands. To better serve the Indian clients KTO has devised ways to get analytical data post the event. “Firstly, we have kept a detailed registration page, through which we will be able to know what travel company, of which size, from which region of India prefers or has done business to South Korea and of what nature & size. That will help us understand the type of demand in different parts of the country. Secondly, we have invited a lot of regional tourism offices who are experts in their region and have all the information of all unique things that their region has to offer. This way, when our Indian buyers meet the RTOs, they will get a lot of clarity on their queries. Lastly, we will be using the feedback that we receive from the expo and pass it on to the rightful authorities so that they know Indian demands and expectations while framing revised tourism policies for the new era of travel,” he explains, adding, “We are yet to frame revised policies for inbound travel and the incentives that we would offer to promote leisure, business and MICE travel to South Korea. Hence, for this expo, we will be treating all travel as a single entity and evaluating the demand in each category.”

Opening for tourism
While there is no official communication available on this subject, Choi feels that South Korea will open for inbound tourism by the last quarter of 2021. “Once that happens and COVID/vaccine guidelines are framed, we will conduct Fam trips if possible,” he predicts. Requesting Indian travel trade to participate in the show, he says, “I would like to encourage Indian buyers to participate in huge numbers and show our exhibitors the strength and capacity of the Indian market, and why they should focus on it as their top priority.”

Exhibitor profile
Currently, there are 16 confirmed exhibitors, says Choi. “My office will also have a virtual booth, so that makes it a total of 17 as of now. The exhibitors are a mix of regional tourism organisations (RTOs), DMCs and tourist attractions. Regions represented by RTOs are Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Gyeonggi, Jeju and Gyeongsangbuk-do. In DMCs, some of them are participating for the first time in the India market and are excited to meet Indian buyers. For tourist attractions, we have the famous Lotte World, which will have a three-people team and showcase their array of theme park, aquariums and observatory. They are also exhibiting in India for the first time. In fact, a third of the delegation is coming to explore the India market for the very first time or after many years,” he adds.

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