– The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) launched a private taskforce (TF) on Thursday, March 24, 2016, after announcing the “Seoul Tourism 3 In, 3 Out Innovation Plan”
– The Plan will help to eliminate low-quality products as well as the overcharging of foreign travelers, and replace them with customized programs for individual tourists
– The price marking system will be expanded to all stores in six special tourist zones, and a ‘Three-strike law’ will be introduced for taxi drivers who charge unfair fees
– An unfair charge compensation system will be expanded and a per person compensation will be increased from the current 300,000KRW to 500,000KRW
– The Seoul Tour Pass and Mobile Tour Plaza for individual travelers will be introduced in the second half of the year and foreign language menus will be available in restaurants
The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) started its ambitious journey to eradicate inconvenience, complaints, and mistrust in the tourism industry of Seoul.
The SMG is currently having discussions with relevant organizations (districts, special tourist zone committees, merchant committees, etc.) to expand the price marking system to all stores in six special tourist zones, including Myeongdong and Itaewon. The system was only previously mandatory for large retailers bigger than 17㎡. Stores bigger than 17㎡ will now also be subject to enforcement and monitoring by the city, district, and tourism police, which will strengthen the measures of reducing overcharging. In February, a similar measure was taken for taxi drivers, and since the ‘Three-strike law’ was introduced, taxi drivers who charge unfair fees more than three times are getting their licenses revoked.
Foreign tourists who are ripped off when shopping, dining in restaurants, or staying in hotels can be compensated up to a maximum of 500,000 KRW, an increase from the existing 300,000KRW per person, according to the Seoul Tourism Association and Special Tourist Zone Committee. The compensation system will expand from special tourist zones to major tourist attractions such as Hongdae and Shinchon.
Individual tourists will also be able to easily travel around Seoul. The tentatively-named ‘Mobile Tourism Market,’ where various tour programs can be directly purchased and sold, will open in September, and the ‘Seoul Tour Pass,’ a free public transit pass for a certain amount of time, (a one- or two-day pass for example), will be introduced in the second half of the year. With the pass, tourists can get various discounts from main tourist attractions. In the ‘Mobile Tourism Market’, creative and interesting tours will be available, such as a Noryangjin Fish Market tour by a local or a makeup trial with a beauty blogger.
In March, the SMG announced the “Seoul Tourism 3 In, 3 Out Innovation Plan” which includes the information above and said it would focus on resolving issues such as the ripping off of foreign tourists and low-quality group tour programs and would meet growing needs for customized tours.
3 In, 3 Out refers the government’s effort to phase in three new ideals–a welcoming and considerate atmosphere, thorough and kind tour information, and a unique experience in Seoul—while eliminating three others–unfair fees, low-quality tour programs, and inconvenience for individual tourists.
The plan was established after collecting tour reviews on blogs and foreign websites, gathering complaints from foreign tourists received from tour information call centers and travel centers, and analyzing in-depth interviews (FGI) from 18 interviewees, including from tour companies, restaurants, accommodation agencies, interpretation agencies, as well as from other relevant organizations such as the Korea Tourism Organization, professors, and journalists.
In the past, Seoul achieved many quantitative accolades, such as by being chosen as one of the top 10 destinations in the world (by MasterCard) four years in a row or by hosting 10 million total foreign visitors. However, the SMG said that it would make this year a year of innovation by focusing on qualitative growth. One way to achieve this would be by eradicating recurring problems in Seoul tourism.
The SMG decided to work with the tourism industry and launched the Seoul Tourism Innovation TF on March 24th, since it is important for the tourism industry, an actual provider of service, to part take in the plan.
The following are main tasks under the plan:
First, the SMG will expand the price marking system to every store in the six special tourist zones in order to eliminate overcharging in shopping, accommodation, and dining experiences. For taxi services, the Plan will review the introduction of set taxi fees for every taxi by hiring an agency in 2016. Currently, only foreigner-tourist taxis have set taxi fees from the Incheon International Airport to Seoul. In addition, the compensation fee (up to a maximum of 300,000 KRW per person) for overcharging will increase to up to 500,000 KRW from April, to help eliminate the practice. The reporting center for overcharging in Myeongdong will open more branches in the Incheon Airport Departure Lounge and at Seoul Station.
Moreover, in May and October, during the two peak months, the SMG, districts, and tourism police will crack down on overcharging. Mystery shoppers will be introduced to identify and punish vendors that charge unfair prices. The number of honorary tourism sheriffs will also increase to keep main tourist attractions orderly and safe (from 150 in 2015 to 200 in 2016). The SMG will work with the National Police Agency to deploy police officers now concentrated in the city center in every area of Seoul, such as Gangnam.
Second, the SMG will reduce the number of low-quality tours that only focus on shopping, and will instead develop great tour programs. To this end, up to 30 million KRW will be subsidized to tour agencies, and for one agency who takes the lead in developing high quality programs, a maximum of an additional 10 million KRW will be granted, and the city government will assist in that company’s marketing as well. In addition, by holding the “Seoul International Travel Mart,” with about 800 participating domestic and foreign companies, the SMG will promote high value-added tour programs including medical care, weddings, and interest in the Korean Wave. The SMG will also build a “Mobile Tourism Market” which targets individual travelers with experience-focused tour programs, which can be purchased. This is to bring positive changes to the now-distorted tourism market due to fierce competition.
Third, in order to eliminate any inconvenience from individual tourists, the SMG will introduce the ‘Seoul Tour Pass’ in the second half of the year, and will increase the number of luggage-keeping facilities in major subway stations. In addition, the city government will find errors in foreign language signs and maps near subway stations and correct them. Menus in foreign languages will also be made available in restaurants where many tourists visit. By working with private agencies, the city government will also expand baggage shipping services between the airports and hotels, so that individual tourists can be free from the stress of carrying around heavy travel bags. The SMG will also suggest that the Korean government simplify tax refund procedures, which was one of the main inconveniences of foreign tourists.
Fourth, the SMG will introduce ‘Welcome Weeks’ for Chinese and Japanese tourists during the Chinese New Year, as well as in May and October, and start a smile campaign to accommodate tourists with a warm welcome. In addition, it will expand its quiet sightseeing campaign from the current Bukchon Hanok Viliage to Mapo and Seongbuk areas to promote a culture of being more considerate of residents.
Fifth, the SMG will install “Seoul Tourism Information Center” kiosks in 2018 to provide one-stop services from offering customized tour information to providing accommodation, concert ticket reservation, money exchanging, and travelers’ centers. In addition, “Seoul Tourism Coordinators,” who recommend travel routes according to one’s traveling style, duration, and interest, will be dispatched in the tour information centers. For this, 85 female marriage immigrants will receive certificates as Chinese and South East Asian tourism interpreters.
Finally, various experiences such as the Seoul Dulle-gil Trail, street food, temple stays, or Hongdae clubbing will be made into tour programs and will be marketed in October as “100 Things to Do in Seoul” via various government-owned channels.
Commercializing Seoul’s Tourist Attractions
|◆ Nature: Han River, Namsan, Dulle-gil, ecological parks
◆ Tradition: palaces, Bukchon, Insadong, Hanok villages, temples
◆ History: World heritage buildings, fortresses, museums
|◆ Cultural experience: 4 seasonal festivals, temple stays, craft shops
◆ Shopping: Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Namdaemun, traditional markets, Cheongdamdong
◆ Korean Wave: K-pop star concerts, drama-shooting places
|◆ Korean food: traditional, temple, market food
◆ World food: Global food that Seoulites enjoy
◆ Street food: Ddokbokki, Soondae, Kimchi pancake, Gimbap, Cupbap, Udong
|◆ Night view: Namsan N Seoul Tower, 63 Building, Banpo Bridge, Gwanghwamun Plaza
◆ Cultural experience: Hongdae clubbing, Dongdaemun night shopping, night movies
To support the plan, the SMG held the public-private consortium “Seoul Tourism Innovation TF,” launching ceremony on Thursday, March 24th. Mayer Wonsoon Park and a private representative will be co-leaders with the TF. The Taskforce is made up of a total of 28 members consisting of officials from the tourism industry (11), relevant organizations (4), experts (6), and city government leaders (5).
The TF will identify additional challenges and issues, review and evaluate already-adopted innovative plans to complement them. To this end, a working-level meeting will be held once a month, and a general meeting will convene quarterly.
“This year marks the first year for focusing on innovation, and the government will not be satisfied with only quantitative growth, but instead will prepare for qualitative growth. Seoul tourism can do so much more. The food and tourism industries will create jobs. It is said that ‘to go fast, walk alone, but to go far, walk with people.’ Therefore, I would like to ask for the support and participation from relevant organizations and citizens. The newly created TF will also play a critical role in the plan.” said Mayor Park.