IHG sets sights on South Korea

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has announced plans for a major expansion of its operations and portfolio in South Korea.

The company currently operates nine hotels in the country across three of its brands – InterContinental, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express – with a further hotel in the pipeline. But it is now planning to drive more development opportunities in Korea with the appointed Steven Choi as its new in-market development representative.

Choi and IHG’s vice president of development for Southeast Asia & Korea, Serena Lim, will now be tasked with expanding IHG’s presence in the country, to take advantage of strong domestic, MICE and inbound travel, plus the opportunities opened up by South Korea’s hosting of next year’s Winter Olympics.

“On a regional level, we have our eyes firmly set on Korea,” said Leanne Harwood, IHG’s vice president of operations for Southeast Asia & Korea. “With a robust domestic market and a steady flow of foreign leisure and business visitors, our brands cater to guests from winter sports fans in the mountain resort town of Alpensia Pyeongchang, to corporate travellers in some of the major cities.

“Korea also represents a substantial outbound market for us, where Korean business and leisure travellers make a sizeable contribution to our network across Southeast Asia,” she added.

IHG will also aim to capitalise on the strength of Korea’s MICE sector. Recent data from the Union of International Associations (UIA), which publishes annual world conference statistics, identified Korea as the top ranking market for international meetings in 2016, achieving a market share of 9.5% globally. Of the 997 international meetings in South Korea last year, more than half (54%) were hosted in Seoul.

Steven Choi
Steven Choi

“Korea has been stepping up its campaign to attract travellers and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions and we are well placed to serve this market,” Ms Harwood said.

South Korea’s international profile will be further raised next year when Pyeongchang hosts the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. These events are expected to raise Korea’s international visitor arrivals to 20 million next year.

Much is dependent however, on a rebound in the Chinese inbound market, which has declined sharply since Beijing imposed a ban on package tours to the country earlier this year as part of a diplomatic spat. In the first four months of 2017, the Korea National Tourism Organization (KTO) reported a 26% year-to-date decline in arrivals from China. In April alone, this decline reached 67% year-on-year, and according to STR, this contributed to a 14% decline in revenue per available room (revPAR) at South Korean hotels the following month.

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