Recently, the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) invited Chinese reporters to pay a visit to their venues, briefing them on preparations for the event.
A senior officer of POCOG International Media Relations said, “By November 27, we have sold 52% of available Olympic tickets (about 555,000 tickets), instead of 30 to 40% as internet rumors claimed for the 2018 Games. As the torch relay proceeds smoothly, ticket sales are picking up.”
As the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are imminent, the host location, Pyeongchang County hopes the event can also lead to a tourism boom following China’s decision to ban tour agencies from selling package tours to South Korea earilier this year.
Undoubtedly, tourism is an important revenue source for Pyeongchang, along with sponsorships and tickets sales. In this regard, Chinese have naturally become the target consumers because of China’s geographic proximity, huge population and plan to host the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Actually, PyeongChang 2018 has always seen China as a significant market, since it started a major boost in 2015 to its online promotion of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, through the launch of the official Chinese website and Sina Weibo account.
In the year 2016, to reach the goal of bringing in 200,000 Chinese visitors for the Winter Olympics, Gangwon-do signed a partnership with China-based Bohai Sea Tourism Federation with more than 2,000 travel agency members.
In the middle of November, 15 local governments and institutes of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) displayed their winter sports services and products at the 2017 China International Travel Mart.
On December 3, a group of 32 Chinese tourists went to visit South Korea, eight months after package tours were halted, signaling an easing of diplomatic tensions between South Korea and China over the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system THAAD back in March. This will also provide more opportunities for the tourism business of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
More recently, a resource promotion conference around the Pyeongchang 2018 and the Beijing 2022 Games have been held in Shijiazhuang City, as part of idea exchanges between Gangwon-do government of South Korea and Hebei Provincial government of China.
At the same time, South Korea has confirmed Chinese visitors will be granted 15-day visa-free stays providing they meet several requirements, including an entry ticket to the Olympic Games, which run from February 9 to 25. This is the first time South Korea has decided to grant a visa-free entry to foreign visitors for an international sports event.
“To be eligible, Chinese travelers must have visited Korea with an entry visa at least once in the last five years or carry Olympics tickets worth more than W200,000 (US$1=W1,089)”, according to Digital Chosun Inc.
In terms of domestic transportation, South Korea is looking to provide international visitors with the ‘PyeongChang Korail Pass’, which can be used for travel throughout the country from February 1 to March 25. The POCOG also has plans to launch China Day activities on February 16 to celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival and introduce Chinese traditional culture for international visitors.
According to a report by The Paper, 116 of more than 20,000 PyeongChang 2018 volunteers are from Chinese speakers, while Olympic-themed exhibition centers in Gangneung provide Korean, English and Chinese descriptions.
In addition to this, PyeongChang has decided to use Made-in-China peripheral products for the mascots Soohorang and Bandabi as well as name Chinese smartphone brand, Huawei, as an official network equipment supplier for the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
As the POCOG estimated, Pyeongchang, Gangneung and Jeongseon are expected to host a total of 100,000 visitors every day during the 2018 Games, about 60% of whom may need accommodation services in Pyeongchang and Gangneung.
As a result, the price of accommodation has soared around the Olympic venues, as most hotels charge at least 1,183 yuan every day, some even ask for more than 5,916 yuan, which seems not cost-effective for many Chinese. More importantly, Chinese people, as it were, prefer a warm reunion dinner to a freezing winter event. So we have to wait and see whether PyeongChang can succeed to make Chinese visitors open their wallets in the near future.
Proofread by William Logsdon