The convention industry has emerged as sort of a golden egg although it has so far been regarded as marginal due to lack of relevant facilities and events.
With the setup of massive convention facilities in the flourishing Kangnam area, Korea has become a hub of the newly lucrative industry in Northeast Asia.
The nation's convention industry is expected to pick up further steam on the occasion of its hosting the Asia- Europe Meeting (ASEM) slated for this October.
As a matter of fact, the convention industry offers various incentives in terms of profits, cultural promotion and exchanges, enhancing the national image and tourism.
For instance, participants in the international conferences spend about 30 percent more money than the average tourists, along with a relatively longer staying period.
According to statistics released by the Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO), while tourists stay here for an average 5.2 days, participants in conferences stay for 7.5 days.
The participants also spend $3,285 on average while staying here compared with $1,491 tourists spend. KNTO analyzed that attracting one participant in an international meeting has the economic effect equivalent to selling nine color television sets.
The convention industry is a high value added one as it leads to generation of new jobs, acquires updated information and technology and develops regional economy.
Also, it is a future-oriented and knowledge-based industry, compared with the manufacturing one which frequently leads to environmental destruction.
Among incentive factors, the host nations may expect to acquire state-of-the-art knowledge and information as most participants are opinion leaders of respective nations.
``The convention industry offers merits in terms of promoting the effect of diplomacy on the private level. It helps enhance the national image and strengthen the nation's influence in the international community,'' said a COEX official.
He went on to say that the hosting of the international conferences may bring about the effect of promoting the regional economy and cultural exchanges as it necessitates investment into various social and capital aspects.
The convention industry brings about further foreign currency income compared with the highly profitable casino industry, which means the industry has a considerable impact upon the tourism industry.
The Hyundai Research Institute recently came up with a report showing that the nation's tourism industry has entered a declining trend with related income having also begun to deteriorate.
``Although the world's tourism market has been expanding gradually, the nation's share in the related market has been dwindling continually due mainly to a lack of support from the government,'' said the institute.
The nation registered 4.9 percent in increase in the number of tourist arrivals during the 1991-1995 period with tourism-related income having risen by 10.9 percent, falling short of the world's average rate.
In particular, tourism income has continued to decrease during the 1996-1999 period when the nation had been under an economic crisis.
HRI cited the need for the nation to put further emphasis on the tourism industry and attract various international events to maintain a stable trade surplus trend.
Starting last year, however, the nation's convention industry began to gain impetus with the nation hosting 97 international conferences, finishing fifth in Asia and 25th in the world, compared with 1998 when the nation attracted only 58 such events. …