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[HERALD INTERVIEW] Globalization, new economic drives keys to EXCO growth: CEO

Country’s first regional exhibition center gears up to attract bigger global events with space expansion





In coping with the difficult business environment in the competitive meeting, incentive, travel, convention and exhibition industry, globalization cannot be emphasized more, said Kim Sang-wook, president and CEO of the Exhibition and Convention Center, also known as EXCO, the country’s first regional exhibition center located in Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province.

“Starting from 2017, we will cooperate more with global event organizers to attract international events, while promoting the global advancement of our original events that have international competitiveness,” said Kim, who took the reins of EXCO in September.

EXCO, launched in April 2001, has hosted various exhibitions and convention events with the focus on regionally specialized industries such as textile, machinery, glasses, renewable energy, and cutting-edge display.

It has fostered exhibitions related to local industries such as the Fire & Safety Expo Korea, Daegu International Optical Show, International Textile Fair, Daegu International Machinery Industry Expo and International Green Energy Expo.

EXCO will continue to consolidate its position as a form of regional export infrastructure with a focus on its function as platforms for five new economic drives in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, Kim said. The five strategic fields include water, energy, new energy vehicles, the Internet of Things and cutting-edge medicine.

Kim also said EXCO plans to strengthen its international reputation in the future. EXCO hosted various international events including the IAAF World Championships Daegu 2011 Congress, World Energy Congress in 2013 and World Water Forum in 2015.

Kim said he is betting on the physical expansion of exhibition and convention space for its globalization strategy.

The city government of Daegu, the biggest shareholder of EXCO, has made the decision to add a new exhibition center. The new second exhibition hall will cover an area bigger than 15,000 square meters and will be added to the east side of the current exhibition halls. The construction will be completed by June 2020 and EXCO will then cover a total of 37,000 square meters.

“We couldn’t host big exhibitions and conventions due to the lack of space or we had to scale down some of the exhibitions, but it will not be a problem now,” Kim said. “Once completed, we will be able to host big international conventions and exhibitions which meet the standards set by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.”

Powerful synergy and economies of scale are expected, according to Kim, as the extra space would allow related exhibitions to be located together, making their scale bigger and resulting in more visitors.

The EXCO has been hosting more than 1,000 events annually since 2014, following its first expansion in 2011. This year, it hosted 1,137 events, compared with a mere 317 events in the year that it first opened.

Currently, EXCO has three exhibition halls, a convention hall, a Grand Ballroom, a 1,300-seat auditorium and 24 conference rooms that can accommodate up to 17,700 participants in an area of 27,000 square meters.

The idea of launching an exhibition center in Daegu traces back to the mid-1990s. To boost the local economy through the MICE industry, a total of 34 organizations and companies gathered to establish EXCO.

Since its launch, it has contributed to enhancing the brands of Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province by hosting domestic and international events.

According to an analysis by the Daegu-based Keimyung University, the economic ripple effect of EXCO is worth 1.1 trillion won ($917 million) and 5,080 jobs.

However, there are some challenges in maintaining sustainable growth for EXCO. “It would be conducive to build a monorail that is attached to Line 3 of the Daegu subway and to develop infrastructure around the convention center,” Kim said.

“Daegu will boost its brand as a global convention city after EXCO successfully hosts mega global events such as the 17th International Congress of Parasitology in 2018 and World Gas Conference in 2021.”

Kim, who will lead the EXCO for the next three years, worked at the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, a government-backed trade agency, for 35 years. He also worked for the Korea International Exhibition & Convention Center, South Korea’s largest exhibition center located in Goyang.

 

By Park Ga-young and Kim Byeong-jin

(gypark@heraldcorp.com) (kbj7653@heraldcorp.com)
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