If they haven't already, incentive and meeting groups should add the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang to their 2018 to-do list. That was the message from the Korea Tourism Organization
(KTO) during its press presentation on April 5 outlining the offerings available and preparations underway in South Korea. The presentation brought together the numerous parties involved in the planning of the event -- the KTO, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee, and more -- to stoke anticipation for next year's Winter Games and discuss how groups can leverage the high-profile event.
The 2018 Winter Games, which run from Feb. 9-25, 2018, is expected to bring 65,000 athletes and officials, Olympic families, and media from about 95 countries to the city. The Paralympic Games, held the March 9-18, will bring 3,000 participants from about 45 countries. This is the first Winter Olympics to take place in South Korea, and the second Olympics, following the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.
"It opens up new horizons in South Korea by connecting athletes and spectators through the sports and our games," said Sheon Hee Kim, key client team leader for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Games. "We want to engage the younger generation and get them more involved and excited in the winter sports."
At the presentation luncheon, which was held at the Park Hyatt New York
in Manhattan, the KTO presented the slogan of the Games -- "Passion. Connected." -- as well as its mascots, Soohorang the white tiger and Bandabi the Asian black bear, both of which were on hand taking photos with attendees.
To prepare for the massive gathering, the country is readying a number of existing venues and constructing all-new ones, including a new Alpensia Sliding Center and Olympic Plaza in Pyeongchang, along with a new ice arena and pair of hockey centers in neighboring Gangneung. It is also undergoing infrastructure enhancements, such as construction of a new expressway and extension of the country's high-speed bullet train. These improvements will allow visitors to get to PyeongChang from Seoul in a little more than an hour and a half, opening up the capital city as an option for groups visiting the country during the Olympics.
Ok Hee Kang, vice president of Korea Tourism Organization, emphasized that this option might be a particularly good one for meetings, where groups could hold an in Seoul then take the bullet train to catch a competition or two. Organizations can hold events adjacent to the games without having to "see all the Games," she said.
PyeongChang itself will offer plenty of accommodations. Sheon Hee stated that by the time the Games begin, there will be approximately 50,000 rooms available for visitors throughout the area. But while the area will be prepared for groups of all sizes, corporate visitors were encouraged to book sooner rather than later.
"Book now, because there is limited space and limited rooms and transportation," said Robert Long, president of CoSport, the Games' authorized ticket reseller in the U.S., which has served in this role since the 1984 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. "Especially for an incentive, where they want to create a memorable experience, they will want to make sure they get what they are looking for -- waiting until Thanksgiving to book is not a good idea."
He emphasized that meeting and incentive planners should reach out for customizing programs, whether that's to showcase a particular sport such as alpine skiing or figure skating, or to assist with arranging other activities.