It’s business as usual in South Korea’s MICE industry despite the recent MERS outbreak, which largely affected the country’s largest leisure markets like China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Korea’s international business events calendar has been largely unaffected by the outbreak, which is now subsiding, said the Korea Tourism Organization in a press release.
According to the KTO, no major international congresses scheduled for 2015 have been canceled, while events such as June’s International Council of Nurses 2015 Conference took place with strong attendance at the height of the scare, showing global confidence in Korea’s safety as reflected by World Health Organization and state-level agencies worldwide advocating normal travel advisories for the country throughout the incident.
“The existing concern about the MERS chaos isn’t as serious as we thought it would be,” said a spokesperson for ICN 2015 Korean organizer, the Korea Nurses Association (KNA).
Attended by 15,000 participants from 120 countries; including 3,000 from overseas, ICN 2015, which was held from June 19 to 23 at Coex, saw professional nurses from across the world convene to build cross-cultural understanding, global cooperation, and discuss key issues within the nursing profession. The conference’s opening ceremony included attendance by both South Korean president Park Geun-hye and WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.
Along with ICN 2015, no major international congresses were canceled this year, with some only experiencing changes in scheduling, according to the KTO. In addition, earlier this month, global DMC Pacific World revealed South Korea was Asia’s number one destination for business events inquiries in their latest destination index.
Korea’s congress schedule for the second half of 2015 remains sturdy, with September, for example, welcoming to Pyeongchang — host of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics — the 6th International Wildland Fire Conference, while November will bring to Seoul the 2015 World Road Congress. Meanwhile, in October, Busan will celebrate the 20th edition of the Busan International Film Festival, which anticipates a total audience of about 220,000 persons from 79 countries, including global buyers for the annual BIFF Asian Film Market.
As of July 13, there have been 186 confirmed cases of MERS, of which 33 of the sufferers are currently hospitalized. All confirmed cases of the infection have been limited strictly to within hospitals, with no documented external transmission of the virus. In addition, there have been no reported cases of the infection amongst foreign visitors, including international congress attendees.
With no additional cases of MERS having been reported since July 7, it is expected that the South Korean government will give an official all-clear announcement at the beginning of August.
The nation’s largest feeder market, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan accounted for the biggest drop in inbound travel to Korea due to MERS, with concerns over the disease exacerbated by the SARS epidemic the previous decade, said the KTO. To alleviate concerns about South Korea, the KTO, along with other travel and tourism entities such as Asiana and Lotte Duty Free, will host a sponsored tour for 200 major Chinese travel influencers such as tour companies, journalists, and prominent bloggers in July.