Destination Jeju

ASTA’s IDE heads to the Far East

By: Gary Bowerman

Welcome to South Korea, we’ve been waiting for you for 5,000 years,” is the greeting at Seoul’s impressive Incheon airport. It’s a soothing welcome to “the country of morning calm” after a long flight, and one ASTA agents will soon experience as South Korea prepares to host the second ASTA International Destination Expo (IDE), from March 25-29.

Not that South Korea has been waiting five millennia for this opportunity: Seoul hosted the ASTA World Congress in 1983. Returning in 2007 represents a calculated gamble for ASTA, which is following up its first education-focused IDE in Prague by venturing to the Far East. While China might have been a more obvious choice, the IDE will instead enable agents to discover the natural beauty and relatively untapped tourism potential of South Korea and, in particular, stunning Jeju Island, which will host the event.

Once thought to have been part of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju Island was cast adrift by a volcanic blast several thousand years ago. Today, 360 dormant volcanoes dot the landscape, dominated by Mount Halla, which is both a natural landmark and the island’s spiritual heart. The rugged coastline is laced with chocolate-colored volcanic rocks and jagged cliffs, which are gently washed by the clear, warm waters of the Pacific.

Springtime in Jeju coinciding with the IDE is famed for a carpet of yellow rapeseed flowers and fragrant cherry blossoms across the island. In summer, it’s a popular getaway for Asian tourists.

The IDE will take place at the International Convention Centre Jeju. Opened in 2003, the circular ICC Jeju yields magnificent views over both Mount Halla and Jeju’s southern coastline.

“The facilities at the ICC are excellent,” said Liz Culkin, ASTA’s vice president for meetings, conventions and trade shows. “Attendees will certainly be very impressed. They will also have the opportunity to experience the fabulous deluxe hotels and incredibly warm welcome that Jeju has to offer.”

According to ASTA, 52 percent of agents’ Asian business has grown in the last two years, a figure that seems set to rise with the expected tourism impact of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Korea’s tourism industry may sit in China’s shadow, but its arrival statistics are moving upward fast. In 2005, it welcomed more than 6 million visitors (up from 1.2 million visitors in 1983, when ASTA was previously in Seoul). Asian travelers account for 76 percent, but, by country, Japan, China and the U.S. are Korea’s top inbound markets.

As for attendee numbers, ASTA is thinking aggressively.

“We’re on track with both sales and organization for the Jeju IDE,” said Kristina Rundquist, ASTA’s vice president for communications. “We are looking for the same numbers as the Prague IDE last year.”

Learning is the underlying driver of the IDE helping travel agents to become destination experts and specialists in Asia.

“The IDE-Asia not only trains agents on how to sell Asia, it also gives agents the most affordable way to get to Asia, to see, first-hand, the destinations their clients are asking about,” said Culkin.

The IDE’s destination seminars include India, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. More than 30 pre- and post-expo tours are being offered, including free Jeju sightseeing tours; eight trips exploring Korea; 11 tours in China; three Thailand options, as well as tours in Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia. The IDE will also include a trade show where suppliers from across Asia will present their services to delegates.

For Jeju, the expo forms part of a diversifying promotional campaign to boost its tourism profile.

“Jeju is a small island blessed with unpolluted natural beauty, but so far it has not enjoyed worldwide recognition,” said Kim Tae-Hwan, governor of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. “One of our key goals with this IDE is to help promote our island in North America and to worldwide tourism markets.” Kim Jong-Min, president of the Korea Tourism Organization, concurred: “After successful promotional campaigns in Prague and Orlando, the Korean Host Committee is more excited than ever to begin the IDE, and impart delegates with everlasting memories.”


Cost: Registration is $259 for ASTA-member agents ($309 for non-member agents).

Getting There: ASTA has negotiated rates, starting from $300 roundtrip, on Korean Air and Asiana Airlines.

Where to Stay: Special hotel rates are available at several hotels, including the oceanfront Jeju Shilla, Hyatt Regency and Lotte Hotel.

For full details on the International Destination Expo visit:

For more information about Jeju Island, visit: