The Korea Herald


Seoul plans more tourist-friendly landscape by 2026

Seoul introduces plan to become a more tourist-friendly city with various attractions and tourist programs

By Lee Jung-joo

Published : Sept. 12, 2023 - 18:38

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Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon presents his Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon presents his "3-3-7-7 Tourism Era" plan -- a set of plans to make Seoul into a more tourist-friendly city -- at the Seoul Tourism Future Vision Proclamation Ceremony, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Tuesday announced a set of plans to turn Seoul into a more tourist-friendly city by adding various attractions and increasing its convenience for travelers.

During the “Seoul Tourism Future Vision Proclamation Ceremony” held on Sebitseom in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon unveiled the city's vision for what he calls the “3-3-7-7 Tourism Era.” As part of this plan, which the city aims to achieve by 2026, Seoul hopes to attract a total of 30 million tourists. Each visitor is predicted to spend up to 3 million won ($2,264), stay for 7 days and contribute to a 70 percent revisit rate.

In anticipation of more tourists traveling alone or in smaller groups, Seoul will expand payment options for tourists’ basic needs, such as calling for taxis or ordering food deliveries via smartphone apps. Tourists from abroad report having trouble using local taxi-hailing apps and food delivery apps in South Korea due to the personal identification processes required to proceed.

The Seoul city government also plans to add programs designed to offer hands-on experiences of Korean culture in various parts of the city. Oh mentioned that culinary tourism will soon settle in as a regular tourist program, with annual culinary events taking place in the city and food markets being run at key landmark sites around Seoul to show off Korean cuisine.

Innovative landmarks that the city has announced it plans to build also add to the city government's anticipation about bringing more tourists to Seoul in the near future. In February 2022, the city government announced plans to transform Nodeulseom, an artificial iselt on the Han River, into a public art landmark area. On March 8, Seoul city also announced that they will build the world’s tallest spokeless Ferris wheel by 2027.

"For those who live in Seoul, the city is just another place for them to go on with their daily lives," said Oh. "But for those who are visiting the city, it should be a special, fun place. We aim to change even the ordinary parts of the city around to develop 'Playable Seoul.'"

In the short term, the city government said it will make use of idle, unused facilities to respond to accommodation demands, similar to how World Scout Jamboree 2023 participants were rehoused after they had to leave the Saemangeum campsite, according to a city government official. Potential spaces include schools that have been shut down, university dorms during vacation periods and retail complexes and other commercial buildings that are currently empty.

However, in the long term, Seoul will expand existing accommodation facilities and introduce new ones, such as pop-up hotels catering to specific events happening in Seoul or floating hotels on the Han River.

Oh also outlined the municipal government's strategy to enhance specialized tourism programs, such as medical tourism. Data from the Korea Health Industry Development Institute reveals that South Korea welcomed 145,842 medical tourists from 191 countries, with 49.8 percent of such visitors choosing Seoul as their destination. The city government will also improve its MICE tourism programs. MICE stands for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions and is a type of tourism that attracts large groups of people for conventions and business gatherings. According to US-based magazine Global Traveler, Seoul was voted the Best MICE City in 2022 for the eighth consecutive year.

Local tourism agencies promoting Seoul will be established in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam -- which are some of the countries that brought the largest numbers of tourists to Korea among Southeast Asian countries in 2022.

The city government also plans to revitalize night tourism in Seoul by expanding more night tourism courses and installing areas around the city to view the sunset and the city’s night landscape along the Han River and the Cheonggyecheon. The “Drone Light Show,” a part of “Seoul Festa 2023” in May, is also set to become a fixed night tourism program.

“It is not fancy, large-scale infrastructure that makes tourists impressed by a city and re-visit, but heartfelt service that is offered to them at the site,” said Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon. “If both the city and the tourism sectors work together to increase the quality and attractiveness of Seoul, Seoul will become a city that is widely loved by the world.”