Seoul, K-style Hybrid Destination


As the MICE industry is undergoing a complete reorganisation, the new event planning environment, the introduction of latest technologies, changing demand of organisers and rapidly changing trends have emerged as major innovative issues. In the prolonged pandemic, the Seoul MICE industry has entered a new phase where digital transformation has become a necessity rather than an option in the tourism and MICE industries in a situation especially travels are restricted.

Considering the fact that future MICE participants are a generation familiar with digital technology, it is obvious that hybrid events will be the way forward, hence Seoul is getting appropriate meeting technology and infrastructure in place. 

In fact, Seoul has been actively hosting a mix of hybrid and online events to overcome the cancellation of on-site events since June 2020 even with the closure of international borders. Moving forward, virtual engagements are here to stay as South Korea slowly adjusts to the new normal under its “With Corona” policy. Let’s explore on how Seoul defines and leads the “Hybrid Ways” in MICE industry.

Award Winning Virtual Platform: Virtual Seoul

South Korea is one of the most digitally connected societies in the world, and Seoul Tourism Organization (STO) was recognised as one of the world’s leading organisations in digital innovation. The Virtual Seoul, a 3D virtual event platform, enables MICE industry players to host MICE events online by moving on-site MICE events that suspended due to the prolonged pandemic. Since the first event UIA Round Table Asia-Pacific 2020 was successfully hosted on Virtual Seoul platform in September 2020, the platform has been customised and utilised in various local and international online and hybrid events.

In early 2021, SCB introduced a variety of innovative K-style digital resources that virtually changed physical attractions, such as virtual promotion booth named MICE World, a non-face-to-face team building programme named Virtual Seoul Playground and 48 attractive 360-degree VR videos added to the existing list of 13 videos. With new features and contents added to the Virtual Seoul, Seoul has proficiently filled the different aspects for hosting and organising any online and hybrid events, including speaker sessions, networking sessions, conferences, forums, webinars, workshops and classes. 

Recently, SCB launched its upgraded version of Virtual Seoul in both technical and digital infrastructure, Virtual Seoul 2.0, making it easier for planners to customise the platform during their event and strengthen its position as one of the preferred global hybrid destinations.

A virtual representation of the city and exhibition halls with four new venues namely Coex Convention Center, Nodeul Island, Seoul Tourism Plaza and Seoul City Hall has been added to the platform, where each venue playing a detailed role from an indoor exhibition hall, an outdoor exhibition space, a business meeting room to an open stage. All venues are designed in simple and realistic 3D graphics based on real architectures that exist in Seoul, showcasing the actual Seoul city in virtual space and its beauty through these iconic landmarks.

After the launch of Virtual Seoul 2.0, the STO plans to add more virtual venues and functions to the platform, and make the platform able to accommodate a greater number of online events according to the specific needs of local and international event planners. With endless options and possibilities in combinations, Virtual Seoul 2.0 will be one of your ultimate virtual platforms to host memorable events in Seoul that accessible from anywhere.

Global Hybrid Hub Destination

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual ICCA Congress switched to a multi-hub hybrid format that assigns hub cities for each continent and region to hold meetings concurrently.

In July 2021, Seoul was selected as an Asia Pacific Regional Hub of 2021 ICCA Congress, with the main event held from 24 to 27 October 2021 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. In fact, Seoul upgraded from “Hub City” to “Regional Hub” of Asia Pacific for ICCA Congress in two consecutive years, serving as a hybrid hub destination. 

On 26 and 27 October, the Asia Pacific Hub Seoul successfully held the hybrid 2021 ICCA Congress programmes at COEX, connecting Asia Pacific members to global society centered from Cartagena de Indias, with four other event hub cities namely Paris, Johannesburg, Abu Dhabi and Nagasaki. As a Congress hub, Seoul provided ICCA headquarters’ online programme from Cartagena de Indias and Seoul’s local programme for the members of Korea gathered at COEX.

A hologram performance under the main message of the Congress, “Forward to Future”, opened the main programme of Seoul and followed with a keynote speech of “2022 Korean Trends and New Normal Convention Strategy”. Over the two days of congress, all offline sessions assembled in Seoul were broadcasted live for the Asia Pacific region’s online participants who cannot attend the headquarters’ programme due to time difference.

The momentum of Seoul as a global hybrid meeting point continues with World Congress of Neurology (WCN) 2025 and World Congress of Audiology (WCA) 2026, where 70 to 80 percent participants are from around the globe. 

Dynamic Local and International Collaborations

Based on the experience and knowledge accumulated in the past decade with a local alliance named Seoul MICE Alliance (SMA), Seoul is extending its alliances to the Asia Pacific region and beyond. In addition, MICE players need to obtain the information warfare through cooperation such as alliance of affiliates from different sectors to obtain efficiency and effectiveness, where more collaborations between brands, industries and new products that branch off of this technology are expected.

Seoul MICE Alliance (SMA)

In supporting the technological innovations and encouraging public-private partnerships to advance technology, SCB has been organising educational programmes for local PCOs and PEOs to prepare them for recovery, including Seoul MICE Business Day where associations and Seoul MICE Alliance (SMA) members came together to network, as well as the Virtual MICE SHOW: SEOUL LIVE ON targeted at overseas buyers to meet with SMA members.

Hybrid City Alliance

In response to the rapid growth in online and hybrid events, the Hybrid City Alliance (HCA) was launched in December 2020, providing active support for hybrid and multi-city events in various ways, including sharing hybrid event solutions each member possesses, collaborating on infrastructure building and connecting with local partners.

By eliminating the restrictions on movement between countries, the HCA tries to bring the “Hybrid Multi-Hub Event” to the highest stage of achievement, where one event can be held simultaneously in several cities. In coming years, HCA will be great as the alliance covers the globe, with the possibilities of hybrid events are endless due to its connections, as well as its scale.

In March 2021, Seoul is the first Asian member of the Hybrid City Alliance set up to offer professional solutions for hybrid event format, led by the Hague(the Netherlands), Geneva (Switzerland), Prague (the Czech Republic) and Ottawa (Canada). Moving forward, Seoul will utilise its hosting hybrid experience to bring the optimal online and hybrid meeting solutions to the international event planners by offering one point of contact solution with the cities of great infrastructures and collective expertise of the alliance. Being a member of HCA will also support SCB in obtaining resources, updates and trends in MICE industry.

Seoul is making steady steps moving further and accumulating experiences of hosting different types of international hybrid events, preparing to arrange the environment for the best hybrid events possible. It was shown that the global MICE industry acknowledges the importance of destinations being hybrid when the Hybrid City Alliance won the Best Marketing Award at 2021 ICCA Congress. As Seoul contributed to the success as the first member from Asia, Seoul’s effort in searching for the best balance will deliver optimum harmonisation in coordinating online and offline events seamlessly.

Asia Convention Alliance

On 2 September 2021, Seoul Tourism Organization (STO) joined the launching of the Asia Convention Alliance through the virtual signing of Memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Thailand Convention Bureau (TCEB), together with Thailand Incentive and Convention Association (TICA), Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) and Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) that live from Bangkok, Thailand. The signing of MOU with the alliance marks a unique partnership between member destinations, working together to strengthen each country’s cooperation, facilitate knowledge exchanges and rebuild the business events industry in the Asian region. 

Seoul has the right resources and infrastructure, professionals and alliances to work together and a hub to serve as a meeting point to gather all necessities together and even develop and advance further. As STO’s efforts towards digital transformation were recognised with the award, STO will continue to work hard to make the MICE ecosystem more digitally resilient and offers endless possibilities for how virtual space could be utilised.

Now, Seoul is a ready to be a hybrid destination. 

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