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South Korea has long been a winning presence on the world stage. And in 2011, the International Olympic Committee selected Pyeongchang as the host for XXIII 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, growing the country’s world recognition even more.
Now, less than one year out from the Games, Pyeongchang and Seoul are preparing for an influx of North American and European tourists.
Here’s what Olympics-bound clients can see and do during a visit there.
When In: Pyeongchang Visitors to Pyeongchang can gain entry to event venues via shuttle busses that will run regularly between transfer parking lots, Olympic Village and event venues. Although Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium will be used for the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, the other 13 event venues are organized into two clusters: Gangneung Coastal Cluster (which hosts ice-centric events such as hockey, figure skating, curling and speed skating) and Pyeongchang Mountain Cluster (which contains snow and sliding sports, including the landmark Alpensia ski jump).
If clients have spare time between events, suggest a visit to the Pyeongchang Olympic Promotion Hall. In addition to virtual reality (VR) kiosks, a VR theater ride and an interactive hockey area, the venue holds a gallery of life-size action figures flanked by Marvel Comics-inspired posters that detail each event. Another exhibit explains the process of preparing for the Games, and a children’s playground — complete with a stationary Korean bobsled — is located outside.
And for a birds-eye view of the city’s landscape, travelers can catch a monorail up to the upper floors of the Alpensia Ski Jump Tower, which bears an uncanny resemblance to an Olympic torch. The views are breathtaking, especially when taken in from the ascending monorail or the outdoor observation deck’s plexiglass floor. (Less-daring souls can enjoy the sights from the coffee shop and indoor viewing areas.)
After their sky-high ride, guests can head to Alpensia Stadium, where the Korean Ski History Museum displays a fascinating mix of alpine gear, photographs and biographical information about Korean winter athletes.
When In: SeoulAlthough there will be direct Korea Train Express high-speed train service from Incheon Airport in Seoul to the Olympic sites in Pyeongchang (about a two-hour ride), travel agents have many good reasons to recommend a few extra days in Seoul on the front or back end of a client’s trip.
Clients looking for a similar interactive and educational attraction to The Pyeongchang Olympic Promotion Hall should look no farther than the free-of-charge K-Style Hub, which is located in Jung-gu (Seoul’s city center). It blends aspects of art, education, science and design to introduce visitors to South Korea’s culture, history and lifestyle. Perky staffers are on hand to assist visitors in planning outdoor and cultural activities in Pyeongchang, along with other regions within the country.
Once at this tourism center, visitors enter a tech-filled room that celebrates both the Korean Pop (K-Pop) music phenomenon and the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The area’s bells and whistles include themed photo booths, an interactive real-time map of the region and VR kiosks that put users into the shoes (or skis) of Olympic athletes. Upper floors feature interactive showcases on fashion and home design; opportunities to try on traditional “hanbok” apparel; information on medical tourism (which is a fast-growing product in South Korea); a history-themed food exhibit; cooking classes; and more.
Other attractions in Seoul tap into Olympic nostalgia. The Seoul Olympic Museum is entirely dedicated to the 1988 Summer Olympics — when Seoul was the host city — and the Seoul Museum of History covers the development of the city and features in its permanent collection a small selection of artifacts and photographs from the 1988 Games.
What’s more, the venues where those games were staged can be viewed from the “Seoul Sky” floor of Lotte World Tower, which opened in April as the fifth-tallest building in the world. The five-star Signiel Lotte Hotel, which is also located within the Tower, represents the pinnacle of luxury lodging.
There will also be a special Olympic-edition of the Discover Seoul Pass for foreign nationals. The card, which costs about $35, is good for a 24- or 48-hour period and covers entry for 21 tourist attractions. It also functions as an entrance card for use on Seoul’s public transportation.
Read more about South Korea’s preparations leading up to the Olympic games.