The Korea IT Times asked Samuel Koo, President and CEO of the Seoul Tourism Organization (STO), a tourism promotion agency set up by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, to speak about tourism areas where the STO can create high value in conjunction with cutting-edge technology sectors such as information & communication technologies, biotechnology and nanotechnology. President Koo was happy to explain, and replied, "Somewhat like the recent rapid changes and successes of the latest mobile phones and laptop computers, the tourism industry must transform itself into a customer-friendly one that keeps in step with the demands of its customers. We need to take into consideration convenience, diverse function, design and price. In sync with this trend, the STO is working hard to develop new tourism products to integrate culture, shopping, food, leisure and entertainment in order to provide a high level of service to the visitor to Seoul. These efforts also include specialized tourism niche markets, which are exemplified by medical tourism and IT-related tourism. Utilizing IT allows the STO to monitor the needs of tourists on a real-time basis which provides both the opportunity to boost customer satisfaction and explore new markets."
Koo elaborated on the medical tourism promotion project now in its second year. Its launch in 2008 has paved the way to attract medical tourists. Medical tourism packages were developed to include medical services in the tour itinerary, successfully drawing medical tourists to Seoul. Koo added, “Medical tourists are high-end customers who can create high value, sending big ripples through the Korean economy." Koo further stressed that in order to produce high value-added tourism industries in the long run, the building of facilities, infrastructure and development of programs should be given more impetus. "And the STO should set the direction of our tourism industry promotion strategies and implement them according to plan." President Koo added.
When asked about programs that create synergistic effects from the amalgam of Korea's 600 year old traditional culture, tourism, and S. Korea's IT power, the CEO answered, "The trend of tourism today is a move toward specialization. In particular, in the IT sector, the STO is developing new programs featuring the combination of IT and tourism so as to maximize customer satisfaction by offering a complete line of quality services from start to finish."
The President of the STO added that in 2010, Seoul tour guide services will internalize information and technology for the first time. The STO has been pressing on with the u-Tour project, a customized tour guide service using smartphones, in a bid to help tourists easily navigate their way through Seoul. The STO has made seamless preparations for u-Tour. A master plan for the u-Tour project was established in 2008 and u-Tour services have been tried out on a pilot basis. Under the u-Tour project, the city will rent a u-Device such as a smartphone at Incheon International Airport. Upon arriving, foreign tourists can pick up the u-Tour device, designed to provide route directions to specified destinations, which will provide new and convenient tour experiences.
Automated Tourism Gadgets
Koo explained, "A U-Tour consists of a u-Device - a smartphone - a u-web portal, and a u-Hub interactive kiosk. The u-Device, which entered beta testing in late 2009, is rented at the airport complete with customized services such as upgraded GPS geared to offer information on mass transit and foot routes to destinations. Simply put, the device is designed to quickly grasp the tourist's preferences and provide customized information to maximize the tourists' satisfaction to the fullest."
"U-Portal, scheduled to open in February, is an upgraded version of the existing visitseoul.net portal, which for the first time offers an array of tourism content and multi-lingual services in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese. These services will include online ticket reservations for movies, concerts and shows. U-infrastructure such as the u-Hub located in the Myeongdong area of central Seoul and obelisk-like media stations installed in tourist spots including Cheonggyecheon Stream, Uljiro and Insa-dong will also cater to tourists' needs, providing tourism information and locational guide maps," added the STO President.
World Design Capital 2010
Seoul is the World Design Capital (WDC) 2010. To celebrate Seoul's designation as the WDC 2010, a prestigious title bestowed on one city biennially by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), a plethora of WDC projects were initiated to leverage design as a tool to give Seoul a makeover. Among the projects are Seoul Forest, the New Town development project, Gwanghwamun Plaza and the Design Seoul Streets project, scheduled to be completed in 2010. CEO Koo explained, "These projects will make every nook and cranny of Seoul aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, the Seoul Design Declaration is to take place in February 2010 plus a total of 141 large and small events including 2010 World Design Capital Summit and the Seoul Design Market are also slated to take place. All these events will provide citizens as well as foreign tourists with unprecedented opportunities to revel in an improved quality of life, unique amenities and the upgraded beauty of Seoul."