As a lesser-known destination for foreign travellers, South Korea’s Jeolla Province wants to leverage its rich cultural and agricultural assets to attract a greater share of visitors from South-east Asia.
Park Hui Jung, chief tourism marketing, Jeollabukdo tourism division, told TTG Asia that the destination’s selling points include the opportunity to get up close and personal with Korean culture in Jeonju Hanok Village, such as through the wearing of a hanbok, making of bibimbap and visiting Korean traditional houses.
The northern Jeolla Province has been intensifying its marketing efforts in South-east Asia by conducting sales calls in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, said Park.
Consumer fairs and trade shows are also part of the agenda, and Jeollabukdo will be participating in this month’s MATTA Fair in Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam International Travel Mart in Hanoi and Singapore’s NATAS Travel Fair.
Meanwhile, the southern Jeolla province is keen to attract Singaporean families as the area offers farms and activities for children, Kim Bog-Hee, deputy director, Jeollanamdo Province tourism division, told TTG Asia.
Unique agricultural experiences promoted include abalone picking and tasting in Wando from autumn to spring, while in late fall, travellers will be able to pick and taste pears, Kim continued.
However, direct international flights to the province are scarce, with China remaining one of the province’s biggest markets as it enjoys twice-weekly scheduled flights from Shanghai to Muan Airport.
Still, Singapore outbound agents see promise in this fledgling Korean destination.
King Jin, senior sales manager, Apple Holidays, said: “The province is not easy to access, but Singaporeans are looking to travel somewhere they’ve never heard of.”
For his company, family groups top the segment of travellers that choose Jeolla, where there are daily departures – each group is about 25 to 30 pax strong – during the peak seasons of June and December.
“(During the school holidays), when compared to Japan, Australia and Taiwan, South Korea is more affordable for Singaporeans. (The province is also popular with families) as they have hands-on activities – such as making Korean paper – that both adults and children can do together,” King added.
He believes that the province will grow in popularity, including for FITs. But as “some Singaporeans prefer packages where everything is taken care of, I think we can still lead the market for another few years”.
Lee Hwee Noi, senior manager international product development outbound, Hong Thai Travel, concurred: “This province has been gaining popularity steadily over the last few years. We’ve sold it for about five years now, and in the first year we only had two groups. But right now we have about 15 groups, and there has been a growing number of enquires.”
For Hong Thai Travel, Jeolla is promoted for repeat travellers to South Korea as the area is located far down south, and is not easy for FITs to get there.