Five-star hotels in Seoul have been put on a high alert since the beginning of this year to take the upcoming G20 Seoul Summit as a crucial chance to promote their revamped Korean catering and lodging services.
A head of state’s stay in a hotel proves that its security and overall services are of the highest standard, which can directly affect the sales and the occupancy rate after the event.
The Westin Chosun Busan actually saw its sales increase 21 percent in 2006 from 2005, right after the 2005 APEC Summit in Busan, according to industry sources.
Promoting Korean food
How to present Korean food in an internationally-friendly way to the world leaders was the dominant talk of the town among the city’s hoteliers.
While only four hotels Lotte Hotel Seoul, Sheraton Grande Walkerhill, Renaissance Seoul Hotel and Mayfield Hotel Seoul operate Korean restaurants, Lotte Hotel Seoul has spent a total of 5 billion won ($4.5 million) in renovating its Korean restaurant Mugunghwa to transform it into a modern fine-dining restaurant. The restaurant was also relocated from the basement to the top 38th floor.
A year-long renovation involved redesigning the interior structure, developing new course menus, making an exclusive glass elevator to take guests directly to the 38th floor and re-training the staff. The new restaurant opened Wednesday.
“We won’t compete with general Korean restaurants. We will show what kind of quality Korean food a luxury international hotel can provide,” said Jwa Sang-bong, president & CEO of Lotte Hotel.
“I hope leaders from all over the world will be impressed by Korean traditional food and visit Korea again,” he said.
Mugunghwa, the newly renovated Korean restaurant at Lotte Hotel Seoul. (Lotte Hotel Seoul)
The newly developed menu consists entirely of course dinners and prices range from 55,000 won per person for lunch to 250,000 won for dinner.
Instead of spreading dozens of dishes at the same time, the dishes are served one after another to help foreigners take their time to taste authentic Korean ingredients.
The wine cellar at the entrance of the restaurant houses a collection of 43 wines, each paired with Korean dishes. A sommelier may recommend wine or traditional tea to accompany the meal.
“Unlike Western cuisine which has one or two ingredients in its main dishes, Korean cuisine features dishes made of different ingredients with various seasonings,” said Lee Byung-woo, executive chef of Mugunghwa.
“This is why it is important to find wines that have a harmony of tannin, acidity, sweetness and body.”
Sheraton Grande Walkerhill, which has ample experience in serving Cheong Wa Dae officials, has finished preparing for the G20 Business Summit welcoming dinner on Nov. 10 and the catering menu for the luncheon of G20 leaders’ spouses scheduled for Nov. 12.
The hotel also refurbished its Korean restaurant Myongwolgwan, which is surrounded by an outdoor garden with a view of Mount Acha and the Han River.
Hong Chang-won, Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea-certified expert in “dancheong,” a traditional style of painting on woodwork, recently contributed to the revamp.
The Imperial Palace Hotel offers Korean course menus to celebrate the summit through the end of November. The course menus are served in three different Joseon Dynasty government official ranks Jeongilpum (senior first rank), Jeongipum (senior second rank) and Jeongsampum (senior third rank) at the Club Imperial Lounge on the 20th floor, which features the Korean traditional tile-roofed style house, hanok.
Renovation of suites, facilities
Grand InterContinental and COEX InterContinental Hotel, closely located to the venue of the G20 summit, have revamped the suite rooms, banquet halls and lobbies in the slow season of July and August.
Also celebrating the 10th anniversary of its launch, COEX InterContinental Hotel has renewed more than 10 ballrooms including the largest Harmony Ballroom. The Harmony Ballroom, which opened in September, was designed by interior design firm Chhada Siembieda Australia and the lighting was created by international lighting firm Point of View.
The Plaza Hotel in central Seoul has just concluded six months of mass renovation and reopened on Nov. 1. The hotel closed its business for the first time to revamp the front exterior, all guest rooms, food and beverage venues and the lobby. The renovation cost a total of 75 billion won, according to the hotel.
The renovated front exterior of the Plaza Hotel unveiled Nov. 1. (The Plaza Hotel)
The hotel said it has changed not only its design but service identity under the helm of Italian designer and architect Guido Ciompi.
The hotel expanded the size of suites and reduced the number of rooms from 455 to 400.
The hotel also enhanced its food & beverage business by hiring a chef from Shanghai for its Chinese restaurant “Tao Yuen,” changing the name of the Japanese restaurant to “Murasaki” and expanding the number of seats at the buffet restaurant “Seven Square” to 190 from 112.
The Westin Chosun Seoul opened in August a new suite, which was specially designed to promote the beauty of Korea’s traditional housing. Three renowned local designers Shim Jeong-ju, Choi Si-young and Eom Ju-eon gave contemporary reinterpretations on traditional styles such as a narrow wooden porch running along the outside of a room.
Also in preparation for the G20 Seoul summit, the Imperial Palace Hotel said it has renovated rooms on the eighth and ninth floor to provide iPod and iPhone station services. The hotel also replaced all computers at the business center with the latest models.
By Kim Yoon-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)