As Korea readies itself to host the country’s first ever Winter Games in Gangwon Province’s PyeongChang in 2018, the organizing committee is placing heavy emphasis on highlighting year-round tourism in the rural province.
Famous locally for its cold and snowy winters in Korea, PyeongChang is one of the peninsula’s most popular winter vacation destinations with its plethora of ski slopes and resorts. However, on a global level, the International Olympic Committee says one of the biggest challenges it hopes to combat with the upcoming Winter Games is increasing public awareness of PyeongChang.
A view from the top of Byeongbangsan in the mountain village of Jeongseon-gun (Jeongseon County)
“The biggest challenge at the moment is how to promote the games around the world, because this is a small place,” said Gunilla Lindberg, a senior International Olympic Committee member during a World Press Briefing in PyeongChang in October.
“It‘s not Rio de Janeiro and it’s not London. We have to take action as soon as possible. We’ll have a series of test events and the athletes will be coming,” she added, noting that the ongoing test trials will allow increased media coverage of the Olympics, while also boosting tourism opportunities as athletes and spectators from all over the world will come to take part and view the test events.
Over the past year, Olympic venues have opened their slopes for the ongoing pre-Olympics test sporting events, which will continue until April. PyeongChang recently wrapped up the final day of the FIS Snowboard World Cup, which allowed competitors and fans alike to experience the spectacle of the world’s largest Big Air ramp at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center.
The upcoming Winter Games will mark the Olympic debut of the Big Air event, which has been added in an effort further appeal to a younger generation of viewers.
“The test events will be a great opportunity to raise awareness and generate excitement for PyeongChang 2018 and to showcase the level of preparation,” says Lindberg.
“We’ll have major TV coverage and people will be aware of the games in PyeongChang,” she added. “The PyeongChang Games will be an opportunity for people from abroad to visit Korea and see winter sports here.”
Gangwon Province’s many travel hot spots and amenities also lends to the PyeongChang Olympics’ “venue legacy” plans, in which the organizing committee has vowed not to let any of the newly built Olympic venues go unused following the conclusion of the games.
Colorful foliage on Odaesan, located in Gangwon Province (Korea Tourism Organization)
Offering easy access and readily available information in English, the PyeongChang Olympics’ official home page features an entire main section where visitors can learn more about the host city and its culture – from local cuisine and recommended tourist destinations to general Korean culture and customs.
Aside from its obvious snow-themed activities and attractions as Korea’s winter wonderland, there’s more to Gangwon Province than skiing and snowboarding.
As one of the most mountainous regions on the peninsula, Gangwon Province offers some of the most breathtaking mountain views. And with Gangwon Province host to some of Korea’s best mountain ranges, it is naturally one of the most go-to hiking destinations for locals, including the snow-covered Taebaek Mountains and the ever popular Seoraksan, attracting hikers by the hordes looking to be awed at the rainbow-like autumn foliage.
A view of Seoraksan (Korea Tourism Organization)
However, for those looking for more of a thrill than leaf peeping, the region also offers countless adventurous outdoor activities including paragliding, hang gliding and zip-lining.
Jeongseon County in central Gangwon Province is slowly being recognized as a must-visit tourist attraction. Characterized by 1,000-meter-high mountains that encase a quaint village, the region’s Arii Hills are home to a transparent observation platform and a death-defying zip-lining cliff drop.
Located near Byeongbangsan in Jeongseon County, the Arii Hills’s Sky Walk is a U-shaped observation platform offering visitors unparalleled views of the area. Dropping off the cliff at a height of 600 meters, for those brave souls who wish for more heart-thumping views, the zip wire ride offers an even more breathtaking experience as one flies through the sky at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour.
Visitors zip-line by the Dong River in Jeongseon-gun (Jeongseon County)
With the recent launch of Korail’s Jeongseon Arirang A-Train service last year, reaching Jeongseon County is now easier than ever before. Departing from Seoul, the quick train ride allows for a quick and easy day trip for travelers pressed for time.
Other cultural itinerary musts for those making their way to the host region of the upcoming Winter Olympics, include Woljeongsa. The mountain temple offers guests a one-night stay in a tranquil environment that is sure to relax and rejuvenate one’s soul, no matter one’s religion.
The PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games will be held from Feb. 9 to 25, 2018. For more information on the Games or recommended travel destinations in Gangwon Province, visit www.pyeongchang2018.com
By Julie Jackson (email@example.com