February 2011Conference+Meetings World31South Korea is beginning to apply its work ethic to expanding its meetings industry. Although a backdropof tension with the North is not helping to sell the destination. Mike Trudeaureports.Upagainst itLate last year, conference industryprofessionals gathered in Seoul for theannual Korea MICE Expo and co-located Seoul MICE Forum, taking placeat the Coex conference venue.On the opening day of the event, NorthKorea responded to joint military exercisesby the South and the US by shelling thesmall island of Yeonpyeong. The violencekilled two marines and at least two civilians,and put the peninsula directly into theinternational spotlight.International visitors to the Forum in Seoulmight never have guessed. Everything wenton smoothly, as planned. The only deviationfrom the programme was when SamuelKoo, President and CEO of the SeoulTourism Corporation, called for a moment ofsilence during his opening speech out ofrespect for the dead. If not for this, then anyvisitor with no access to the internet couldhave wined, dined, networked, and beendriven back to their cosy hotels without anyidea of what was going down.Visitors would surely want to know if theirhosts were about to go to war. However, ittakes professional stoicism to stick to arigorous schedule at a time when peoplewould be forgiven for thinking more abouttheir families than the job at hand. Thisattitude to finishing the task at hand despiteextenuating circumstances is exemplary ofthe work ethic which has brought SouthKorea forward so quickly in the last fewdecades.However, the same cultural importanceplaced on doing one's duty can also impedethe growth of the events industry. Accordingto Martin Sirk, CEO of the InternationalCongress and Convention Association(ICCA) and who spoke at the MICE Forumin Seoul, some people in client-facingpositions can be reluctant to make decisionsfor themselves for fear of undermining theirsuperiors. The result is that every decisionhas to be channelled back up through theranks and then sent back down, leading tolosses of adaptability and responsiveness,both crucial for hosting live events.The G20 summit held late last year inSouth Korea, helped to boost the country'sprofile as an international eventsdestination, and spotlighted Seoul as a new,high-tech international events destination. The city's offer is a good one: it has plentyof venue space, good transport links toIncheon airport, and has over the last 10years poured a lot of money intorejuvenating central areas. Traffic is difficulthowever, and pollution can be a problem.Also, there are a lack of sufficient qualityhotel rooms to accommodate largenumbers of up-market professional visitors.Despite the wealth of venue space, highbusiness levels and modern technology, ashortage of trained professionals faces thematuring Korean MICE sector. According toKoo, low starting salaries make it difficult tobring qualified new graduates into themeetings and event sector. "All the regional, local and nationaltourism organisations are looking for trainedpeople," he said, "but at the same time thesalary level isn't high enough, so it is difficultto attract people to the industry." Speaking at the Forum, MeetingProfessionals International's (MPI) ChiefDevelopment Officer, Didier Scaillet, said anundefined career path was alsodiscouraging young Koreans fromcommitting themselves wholeheartedly tothe industry.Korea, like any country, faces challenges.However, organisers underestimate the smallpeninsula at their peril. When the countrybrings its rigorous work ethic to bear on theevents industry, it will leap forward with thesame speed as it has in other fields.COUNTRY PROFILECoex put on a brave face despite outside political tensionsFactboxKorea's top venues by gross conferencespaceCoex, Seoul(11,536sqm)ICC Jeju, Jeju Island(8,065sqm)Exco, Daegu(7,579sqm)Kintex, Gyeonggi-do(6,259sqm)DCC, Daejon(5,161sqm)Bexco, Busan(8,860sqm)Ceco, Gyeongsangnam-do(4,437sqm)Songdo Convensia, Incheon(4,020sqm)KDJ Centre, Gwangju(2,308sqm)AT Centre, Seoul(1,074sqm)SETEC, Seoul(839sqm)
32February 2011Conference+Meetings Worldwww.c-mw.netPHOTO RANGEWorks in progressMeet under the sidra tree in QatarScheduled to open in October 2011, the Qatar NationalConvention Centre (QNCC) boasts a 250m curved steel sidratree design. The venue will be the first congres venue built to the gold certification of US Green Building Council'sLeadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED). QNCC will be the largest such facility in the region andprovide meeting spaces over three levels, including40,000sqm of exhibition space and a main conference hallfor 4,000 delegates. There will be a 2,300-seat theatre,banqueting space for 10,000 and 57 smaller meeting rooms.QNCC is located alongside universities in Doha's EducationCity, 20 minutes from the central business district. Oman's convention castle in the sandThe Oman Government started the New Year with agroundbreaking ceremony for the Gulf state's new OmanConvention and Exhibition Centre in Muscat. The project by state-sponsored developer Omran willinclude 25,000sqm of exhibition space and 85,000sqm of office space, as well as four hotels, an auditorium for3,000 delegates and a shopping mall. Oman's Minister of National Economy, His Excellency Ahmedbin Abdulnabi Macki, said the facility would allow Oman tobecome a major new destination for business events. "Thefirst win is the direct economic impact, the second is thateach event attracts thousands of visitors to the venue.Cracking the ICE in KrakowICE is a multifunctional congress centre due to be built insouthern Poland's old capital, Krakow. It is scheduled to openin 2014 and will be constructed by the Vistula River, near to the historic city centre and Wawel Castle.The architects are Ingarden and Ewy from Krakow and ArataIsozaki and Associates from Tokyo. The elevation is distinctivedue to the mosaic created from materials used in thearchitecture on Wawel Hill: ceramic and lime tiles, granite andsandstone.The plans include a main auditorium to seat 2,000 delegates and a theatre for 600.There will be a 1,800sqm foyer for exhibitions andbanqueting and a two-storey underground car park.The SQUAIRE Frankfurt The SQUAIRE is an ultra-modern landmark, styled as a 'NewWork City', in the middle of the Airport City Frankfurt. The?960m (US$1.24bn) structure stands on 86 pillars, seeminglyfloating above the railway station. The SQUAIRE's mainstructure topped out last year and the Conference Center due to open in 2011 will cater for up to 500 delegates. There willbe options to lease meeting rooms and offices in the building,owned by IVG Immobilien AG (97%) and Fraport AG (3%). Despite claiming to be a state-of-the-art 21st century workingspace, The SQUAIRE's marketing boldly states that "in the ageof networked technologies and high-speed transport, 80 percent of all ideas are developed face-to-face". This month CMWlooks at eight convention centre projects under way around the world. From theGulf to North America, the cranes are flying for new major conference facilities.