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IRs will boost many industries, but favourable policies are lacking: KTO chief
Karen Yue, Seoul, July 1, 2013

THE integrated resort (IR) model would benefit multiple industries across South Korea, but government opposition to the construction of tourism facilities still posed a hurdle, said Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) president, Charm Lee.


Speaking to TTG Asia e-Daily at the Korea MICE Expo 2013 last week, Lee said: “In terms of tourism, we see Singapore as a role model. An example we are following is Singapore’s courtship of international associations, encouraging them to base their Asian offices there, which in turn drives more association meetings to the city. Our most recent achievement in this direction is the Green Climate Fund’s establishment of its headquarters in Incheon’s Songdo City.


“Singapore’s success with the IR model is also something we can emulate. A single IR, through its MICE facilities, gaming, theme park, shopping outlets and accommodation, will supply the destination with large infrastructure to capture mega events, and that in turn brings business to the taxi companies, retailers, medical specialists when travellers have their health checked, and IT companies when delegates purchase the latest local gadgets.


“If Singapore, with its limited land, can work this model so well, South Korea can do even better because we have lots of land to support the required scale of such infrastructure and we enjoy a more central location on the world map,” he explained.


What is lacking, acccording to Lee, is a favourable licensing environment.


“It isn’t just gaming that some authorities are objecting (to). Hotels are also regarded by some as frivolous, as a place to play (in), so building permits are difficult to obtain and taxes are prohibitive for developers. It is far easier to secure a permit to build a department store than a hotel,” said Lee.


He added that KTO had been working hard to change the mindset of government agencies through regular open dialogues and hosting the annual Korea MICE Expo.


Although the tourism sector lacked the lobbying muscle of major industries, there had been progress, as “evident in the government’s recognition that tourism is one of the key economic pillars”, Lee pointed out.


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