– Seoul conducted a Focus Group Interview with 30 international tourists in May
– As the individual tourists increase, tourism pattern changes from sightseeing to experiencing
– Seoul is seen as the ‘Lively young city’ / ‘Diversity’ and ‘Convenience’ makes Seoul attractive
– Seoul needs to establish a tourism infrastructure, taking account of the diverse religions and culture
# “In Seoul, I’ll make a phone call to get the Chi-Mac (Chicken with beer) delivered to the guesthouse.” (25 years old, woman from China)
# “I’ve wanted to do my hair like Dae Jang Geum in the traditional Korean costume, Hanbok and take pictures in royal palace like Gyeongbokgung.” (34 years old, woman from Malaysia)
# “I had the chance to stay in a guest house in Bukchon Hanok village during my visit to Seoul. I had a real good time then. They always tried to help me, asking me if I need anything more.” (34 years old, woman from Germany)
What is the thing that international tourists visiting Seoul want to do most? How do they view Seoul after experiencing places in Seoul?
The keywords are ‘Hallyu’, ‘Experience’, ‘Diversity’, ‘Dynamic’, and ‘Kind’. On the other hand, it was found to be lack of the consideration on the other culture.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government conducted a Focus Group Interview between 2nd and 17th of May to listen to the in-depth stories about the Seoul tour from the international tourists and announced the result of the interview.
The interviewees were 30 international tourists having plans to visit Seoul. They applied for the interview in advance via website and SNS. The recruited tourists were asked right after their visit to Seoul about what they felt. This approach makes a big difference from the previous quantitative surveys.
– The applicants were those who had plans to visit Seoul during the Seoul Welcome Week (29 April ~ 8 May), which is almost the same period with the Chinese Labor Day holidays (30 April~2 May) and Japanese Golden Week (29 April ~ 8 May). The applications were received on Seoul tourism website (www.visitseoul.net) and SNS including Facebook and Weibo.
The applicants were recruited to 5 regions as follows based on the ratio of the countries from where the visiting tourists come: China (11), Japan (6), Taiwan and Hong Kong (3), South East Asia (4), Americas and Europe (6). Experts interviewed small group of 3~4 interviewees from each region.
According to the result, what most attracts tourists to Seoul is ‘Hallyu’, the Korean wave. Every region showed the interest in Hallyu culture including Korean soap operas and K-pop. Especially, tourists from the Asian countries said that they visit Seoul to enjoy the Hallyu culture contents such as K-dramas, concerts and performances.
– People from Americas and Europe said the curiosity on ‘Korean War’ and ‘Division of the country’ made them to visit Seoul.
As the FIT (Free Independent Traveler) is increasing each year, the trend was changing from the sightseeing in the famous places recommended on the guidebooks to the experience-based tour to experience the daily life of Seoul citizens such as ‘Getting chicken catered to the guesthouse’ and ‘Getting dressed in Hanbok in royal palace’.
The best attributes of Seoul were found to be ‘Diversity’ and ‘Convenience’. The reason can be described as follows: areas where the tradition and the aspect of the urban metropolis coexist are placed nearby, for example Insa-dong, Cheonggyecheon, Jongno and Myeongdong. Diverse types of tour such as sightseeing and shopping are available. It is convenient to use the public transportation and internet. Also, it’s quite safe across the whole city.
The interviewees who had visited or lived in other Asian cities, for example cities in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan agreed that Seoul has its own ‘Diversity’ which cannot be found in other cities.
The image of Seoul is said to be ‘Dynamic’. The interviewees described Seoul to be ‘improving continuously’, ‘new’, ‘young’ or ‘a lively city of the youth’.
Interestingly enough, tourists from Asian cities except those from Japan described Seoul focusing on its functions such as ‘high-tech’, ‘cutting-edge’, or ‘creative’. On the contrary, people from Americas or Europe see Seoul in a rather emotional and historic/cultural way, saying that it’s ‘traditional’, or ‘classic’.
Then, what do they think of Seoul citizens? On the outside, Seoul citizens look like ‘unrelaxed’, ‘walking fast’, and ‘sullen-faced’. But Seoul citizens are said to have ‘very kind and warm’ personalities inside.
Many interviewees answered that they felt the kindness and warmness when Seoul citizens walk them through to their destinations when they were asked for directions. The interviewees also said that they could feel the heart of Seoul citizens from the ’empty seats for the elderly and the disabled’, ‘offering seats for others’, and ‘generous service at the small restaurants’.
When they were asked about what should be improved to raise the quality of Seoul tourism and diversify the tourism industry, they suggested that the tourism infrastructure should be established taking account of the religions and culture of other countries. For example, installation of the praying zone for the increasing Muslim tourists, offering the ingredient information at restaurants for the vegetarians or installing bidets in toilets.
SMG plans to utilize the result of this FGI as well as the ‘Incoming tourists survey’ to improve the attitude of welcoming the tourists and seek ways to develop sustainable Seoul tourism.
– Seoul has been conducting the ‘Incoming tourists survey’ since 2009 to figure out the current status of the tourism environment so that it can improve tourism policies and the strategies.
Kim Ui-seung, the chief of the Tourism and Sports Bureau at the Seoul Metropolitan Government said, “The FGI was introduced to find what the international tourists think of the current status of Seoul tourism, which could hardly be found by the quantitative survey of multiple choice or short answer questions.”, adding that “We will do our best to aim for the ‘Destination City Seoul of 20 Million tourists’, by developing the attractions and improving the inconveniences, taking account of the result of the interview.”