Seoul hosts Gulf tourism seminars
Seoul became the first Asian city to host the ‘GCC Days 2011’ Seminars. On 10 February more than 300 officials and specialists from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and experts from the local community gathered in Seoul to discuss ways of promoting business, tourism and cultural exchanges between Korea and the GCC region.
During her presentation at GCC Days 2011, Vice President of the Seoul Convention Bureau, Maureen O’Crowley said; “While the Middle East and Korea have long been trading partners, they are still quite new travel destinations for each other.”
Ms O’Crowley went on to explain the ways in which tourism provides solutions to many of the issues discussed during the two-day seminar.
“Tourism is a powerful industry, one capable of not only generating revenue, but of changing perceptions, dispelling stereotypes, fostering goodwill, and increasing understanding. It is an industry that both the Gulf and Korea have only recently looked to diversify and expand as an economic driver, to move away from a dependence on our established ones of oil and manufacturing,” she said.
Khalid Musaliem Al-rawas, Director General of the Oman Department of Tourism, added; “Tourism can either contribute to or drive economic growth, and provide spin-offs that cannot be provided by other sectors. There are many examples where tourism is centre-stage in national economic strategies or where tourism is a valuable secondary activity that assists wider investment attractions strategies, such as conventions and exhibitions.”
In order to facilitate increased tourism between Seoul and the Middle East, O’Crowley proposed the creation and distribution of publicity materials indicating facilities in Seoul that cater to the Arab visitor. Collaboration with Korea-Middle East organisations such as the host of GCC Days, the Korea-Arab Society, could lend credibility to these materials, she argued. Ms O’Crowley also admitted that Seoul will have to expand and improve its Hallal restaurants if its is to appeal to GCC visitors.
Other ideas proposed by other scholars and officials at the seminar included the creation of foundations, cultural festivals, Arab culture weeks, and adding more university level programmes for Middle Eastern and Korean studies.
The two-day event was held at the Lotte Hotel’s Sapphire room, and featured presentations on economic cooperation, the role of women in development, and strengthening relations between GCC countries and Korea. VIP’s in attendance included Abdulrahman Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Secretary General of the GCC, Seung-Hoh Choi, Secretary General of the Korea-Arab Society, and Mohamed Salim Alharthy, Ambassador of Oman to South Korea.