Korea Lays Out the Welcome Mat

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Pyeongchang, South Korea, will host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

2018 Winter Olympics

Athletes from 90 nations will compete in seven sports and 15 disciplines in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The Opening Ceremony will be held on 9 February 2017; the Closing Ceremony, on 25 February.

PyeongChang won its bid to host the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, receiving more votes than the two runners-up Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France, combined.

PyeongChang will be only the third Asian city to host a Winter Olympics. The 1972 games were held in Sapporo; the 1998 games, in Nagano. Both of these cities are located in Japan.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were held in Sochi; the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China.

An Introduction to PyeongChang

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A night view of the ski slopes in PyeongChang, South Korea.

PyeongChang is a county in South Korea’s Gangwon province, set amid the Taebaek Mountains. Located 180 kilometres, or 110 miles, east of Seoul, it has an average elevation of 700 metres, or 2,300 feet.

The area is popular with winter sports enthusiasts and mountain hikers. Mountain hikers favour the southern side of Mount Seoraksan.

The area is home to several Buddhist temples, including Wojeongsa, a temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It is located on the eastern slopes of Odaesan.

The Lee Seung-kok Memorial Center is located in Nodong-ri, Yongpyeong-myeon.

Samyang Rach is the largest highlands farm in Asia. Located in the hills of Daewallyeong 850 to 1,470 metres above sea level, it operates as a petting zoo. The region boasts three golf courses and a water park.

PyeongChang was traditionally spelled in English with a small C.

Fearing that potential visitors to the 2018 Winter Olympics might confuse the town with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, officials decided to spell it with a capital C to avoid confusion.

I think it would have been less confusing if they had simply spelled it as two words: Pyeong Chang.

Alpensia Ski Resort

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A night view of the Alpensia Ski Resort in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The Alpensia Ski Resort was built in preparation for the Winter Olympics, and most of the snow events will be held there.

The resort has six slopes for skiing and snowboarding, with slopes of up to 1,400 metres, or 4,593 feet long. It is appropriate for both beginning and advanced skiers. The resort, however, is open year round.

The Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium is located within the station and will be the location of the ski jumping events of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Facilities include …

  • Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium – Ski jumping, Nordic combined
  • Alpensia Biathlon Centre – Biathlon
  • Alpensia Nordic Centre – Cross-country skiing, Nordic combined
  • Alpensia Sliding Centre – Luge, bobsleigh and skeleton

In addition to sports, Alpensia will be the focus of the 2018 Cultural Olympiad. A new concert hall was built within the resort to this end.

Accommodation

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InterContinental Alpensia Pyeongchang.

Three large hotels were also built within the compound. Belonging to the InterContinental group, they all opened in 2009.

Alpensia will also be the home of the Olympic Village. After the Winter Olympics, Alpensia will host the 2018 Winter Paralympics.

Yongpyong Ski Resort

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Yongpyong Ski Resort in PyeongChang, South Korea.

A five- to 10-minute drive from Alpensia is the more extensive Yongpyong Ski Resort, which will be the venue for alpine skiing technical events (slalom and giant slalom). The speed events of downhill, super-G, and combined will be held at Jeongseon Alpine Centre.

With 31 slopes, Yongpyong is the largest ski resort in Korea. The ski season runs from November to early April. In addition to winter sports, Yongpyong offers golf in summer. There are three golf courses in the vicinity and a large water park.

Yongpyong means “dragon valley” in Korean. The region has warm, humid summers and extremely cold winters, which are long and snowy.

Infrastructure

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Gyeonggang Line of the Seoul Metropolitan Subway.

PyeongChang’s infrastructure was improved to accommodate the athletes, officials, and spectators that will descend on the town during the Winter Olympics.

A high-speed rail line was also built in anticipation of the games. Running from Wonju to Gangneung, the Gyeonggang Line of the Seoul Metropolitan Subway stops in PyeongChang, bringing the resort to within 80 minutes of the nation’s capital.

Meet Your Hotel General Manager

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Jagdeep Thakral, General Manager, InterContinental PyeongChang Alpensia.

Jagdeep Thakral is General Manager of the three InterContinental hotels in PyeongChang: the InterContinental PyeonChang Alpensia, the Holiday Inn Resort, and the Holiday Inn and Suites.

I talked to Jagdeep about the upcoming Winter Olympics and the impact they will have on travel and tourism not only in Pyeongchang itself, but also across South Korea as a whole.

ATWHK: Can you tell me something about accommodation in PyeongChang?

JT: “We have three hotels in Alpensia.. All hotels opened in 2009. Our three hotels have a total of 871 rooms and are located in the purpose-built, alpine-style village of Alpensia, in the pristine Taebaek Mountain region of Pyeongchang county.”

ATWHK: And what about the village?

JT: “The resort village offers world-class facilities that include a ski jump tower, a cross-country course, golf courses, a conference centre, shops, and a Water Park developed by GDC (Gangwon-do Development Corporation).”

ATWHK: What is your usual target market?

JT: “70% visitors are from Korea, mostly coming from Seoul, Songdo, Icheon, and areas around Seoul. The foreign travelers are from Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia, Japan, and Europe.”

ATWHK: What about during the Olympics?

JT: “This will be the country’s first Winter Olympics after hosting the memorable 1988 Olympic Games.

“During the Olympics, we will be full with 100% foreign visitors.”

ATWHK: What about Pyeongchang in particular?

“South Korea has a robust domestic market, and Pyeongchang is well-known amongst these travelers. We are excited that our region is going to beamed around the world and are hopeful that it will attract more visitors from farther afield.”

ATWHK: What about your hotel?

“[We have received] additional support from IHG regional office on Risk Management, Food Safety and deployment of IHG Force One Food and Beverage Task force during the Olympics [as well as] soft refurbishing where required.”

ATWHK: Has your hotel done anything to capitalize on the games?

JT: “We will be hosting a number of guests during the games, and we look forward welcoming them to our hotels and resorts.

“For many of them, it will be their first visit to Alpensia, and we are working hard to ensure that we make their experience memorable through exceptional experiences and true hospitality all with a South Korean flavor.”

National Impact

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Night view of the Imperial Palace Seoul.

Hoteliers in other parts of the country expect to benefit from the Winter Olympics, as well.

“The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, are expected to increase the number of tourists visiting Korea during the competition,” says Seung Geol Lee, General Manager of the Imperial Palace Seoul – a member of the Lifestyle Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

“It is expected to have a special effect on regional economic development and publicity.

“It is also developing strategies to maximize the attractiveness of Imperial Palace Hotel, and foreign tourists visiting Korea, and to look around Seoul before and after the Olympics.

“Imperial Palace Hotel will provide visitors with information on PyeongChang Olympics sightseeing, accommodation, traffic, and competition information.”

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The hotel lobby of the Imperial Palace Seoul in South Korea.

Established in 1989, the Imperial Palace Seoul was upgraded to a four-star hotel In 2005.

Heavy investments were made to create a grand lobby and a convention centre that could accommodate more than 1,000 attendees.

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Hotel guest room at the Imperial Palace Seoul.

Hotel guest rooms at the Imperial Palace were also upgraded.

“We plan to do everything in order to provide perfect condition of the rooms,” Lee says.

“The PyeongChang Olympic Games will provide local and overseas visitors with a chance to have a good experience at the Imperial Palace Hotel.”

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Indoor swimming pool at the Imperial Palace Seoul.

Other hotel facilities include an indoor swimming pool, a physical activity zone with five sections, a group exercise zone, rock climbing, a squash court, a sauna, and an outdoor driving range.

Preferred Hotels & Resorts

The Imperial Palace Seoul is one of 12 members of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts group in Korea, which entered the market 15 years ago.

There are currently 12 member hotels in the country, including seven in Seoul as well as six Shilla Stay properties,  two hotels in Busan, and one each in Cheonan and Hwaseong si.

Connect Busan will be the latest addition to the company’s portfolio in South Korea. It is scheduled to be open in November 2019.

“With the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea had hopes to raise its international standing and attract more tourism into the region,” says David Spooner, Executive Vice President for Asia Pacific, PHR.

“With rising interest in skiing with the Chinese traveler, South Korea hopes to position itself as one of the key ski destinations in the world and a viable alternative to the more established Japanese areas of Niseko and Hakuba.”

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