The Korea Herald

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Penetrating with products beyond beverages

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 20, 2012 - 18:38

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Austria looks to showcase year-round leisure companies


Austria is offering more this year than the standard food, beverages and classical music as the promotion of winter products takes center stage.

“We have the mountains and the winter sports and that is where we will have the angle this year,” said Advantage Austria commercial counsellor Michael Otter.

Several winter sports products have made their way to Korea in the past few years but one that has revolutionized the industry is Fischer’s Vacuum Ski Boot.

Fischer promotes the boot as a complete anatomical fit.

But the ski industry in Korea has reached maturity when it comes to the stocking sports equipment for rental purposes at ski resorts. The next mogul resorts will navigate around is the expansion of year-round leisure activities.

“What we expect to see now is that the roughly 22 resorts will have to reinvent themselves and come up with new gadgets, ideas and all year-round concepts to attract people,” he told The Korea Herald.
Advantage Austria commercial counsellor Michael Otter (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald) Advantage Austria commercial counsellor Michael Otter (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)

Advantage Austria will showcase their country’s year-round leisure equipment that they hope will enhance the resorts and help them differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Some of these products will transform the resorts into a year-round fun factory based on equipment that will extend the downhill pleasure that can, until recently in Korea, only be experienced in winter.

One product Otter described is a 300-meter long bobsled type track that can be used when winter does not rule the mountains.

In the land of Internet connectivity, Otter plans to team-up firms that can offer wireless internet technology on the ski slopes, a signal that has yet to penetrate the majestic mountains of Korea.

“The system application will follow your position at the resort through GPS technology, offer the different times of departure of the gondolas, nearby restaurants and snack bars and also voucher system making it completely electronic instead of the current paper system,” he noted.

The company that offers this high-tech gadget is Loop21.net, which is currently looking to break into the local divide.

The electronic ticketing system that has taken shape in many ski resorts around the world is also looking for a home here.

As profit margins decline due to high cost, electronic ticketing will monitor skiers’ entrance on the slopes much like a T-Money card does for the subway.

“For some of these ski resorts who are open 24-hours a day, this is perfect to cut overhead and salaries,” he said.

Austria is also a European leader in renewable technology producing about 60 percent of its needs through alternative sources.

“What we want to bring to Korea are biomass solutions made from wood,” he said. “This is more of a regional energy solution.”

By cleaning the fallen branches and tree bark made either naturally or through their forest management schemes, Austria has been able to use an old idea to fuel the energy needed in school and municipal buildings for cities of up to 50,000 people.

“It’s a pretty clever solution that uses its surroundings to heat local buildings,” he said. “We are the world market leader in this niche.”

Otter is currently working with local authorities to find ways to apply this technology in Korea.

Recently, one of Austria’s most popular beverages and rags to riches story, Red Bull, was placed on local shelves and on Korean televisions with their iconic and simple commercials.

Otter admits that it is a bit tricky to push unknown brands here because of the local affinity for international well-known favorites.

“There are many companies that produce excellent products but are not as widely known as their bigger cousins,” he said. “Some are leaders in the one thing they produce.”

To assist small and medium Austrian companies break into the local market, Otter suggests for them to rethink their marketing strategy in order to better position locally unknown brands.

“Maybe they can start by telling an interesting story about why they are the best, like the farmer that greets his cows every morning by their names,” he said.

Niche marketing is big business and Advantage Austria will take advantage of their sphere of influence to not only bring together companies from both sides but also promote products.

As for the recent free trade agreement with the European Union, Otter said that there is a slight increase of wine imports but is not sure if it is because of the FTA or if companies are filling up their stocks due to the slower second half of 2011.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)