Seoul- an Emerging Destination for International Convention Industry
International conferences are emerging as a major global industry over past few years. Despite its growing size, it has been largely ignored in terms of academic research. Where western part of the world has been locus of conference industry with major locations in U.S. And UK, Asian cities are now emerging as better options for conducting international conference. Furthermore, international conference industry is also growing well with the international trade show industry. Where South Korea is becoming a new hub of international trade show industry, its capital city Seoul is transforming into an ideal location for international conferences with many promising events scheduled for upcoming years.
International conferences are becoming substantial peripheral element of trade industry. And, this is the reason why tourism regulation authorities worldwide are paying major attention to this area of revenue generation. In order to understand the dynamics of this industry, the factors governing demand and supply forces of conference industry needs to be elaborated and understood well. There are numerous corporate events conducted every month globally which involve substantial payments and most of the time, the success factor of the conference mainly depends on the how well the conference has been planned and executed (Rogers, 2012).
In order to evaluate the impacts of conference industry at international level, information from various sources such as ICCA, MPI and the Convention Industry Council (CIC), as well as from tourism bodies such as the UNWTO, can be taken. Where such reports will help in determining the shifts in trends over last few years, it will not provide a comprehensive view because of participation of local attendants which remains unidentified in tourism reports. Trends of conference industry have been a focus of limited research. However, the available literature explains that it is the growth of knowledge economy which affects the development of conference industry (Weber and Ladkin, 2004). It is the continuous need for updating knowledge which requires professionals to sit together and disseminate knowledge. This growth in the trend of organizing conferences has pushed convention associations to put in effort in determining the scope of this industry. However, unfortunately, due to isolated studies, concrete data is not available.
The conference industry can be segmented into two broad divisions: the demand and the supply. The demand side constitutes of the consumers usually termed as delegates / participants which are the main customers in this industry. Whereas the supply side constitutes of organizers. The term organizer itself has a vast meaning as it not only includes event planners and managers but also the venue owners and private managers as well. It is important to recognize the fact that the suppliers of the products and services other than main event management do not form the supply part of this industry despite of their substantial; role during the vents. Secondly, the definition of organizer can be used for the host as well as the venue owner dependent on the nature of the event (Weber & Chon, 2002).
Demand side of this industry is represented by the number of delegates that attend these conferences on annual basis, their countries of origin and expenditure on registration and other products and services. Whereas the data of the supply side relates to expenditures incurred and revenue generated while hosting an event along with statistics related to participants. The international conference industry can be divided into various segments in different ways such as size, types of delegates and conferences etc. It is the initiator of the conference which decides its nature and also the kind of the supplier that it will require. While segmenting it on the basis of segmentation, corporate and non-corporate segments evolve. Nor-corporate initiators may include governments, associations and non-profit organizations. In case of event initiation by any association, an involvement of local counterpart, scheduling at regular intervals and longer lead times are some of the visible trends.
Since a concrete data for the evaluation of conference industry itself is not available, the data of meeting industry which partially includes the statistics of conference industry will be included for representation purposes. As per the statistics provided by ICCA, the events which earlier had a rotating nature are now appearing to stabilize in Asian part of the world. While evaluating numbers of meetings conducted in the region, the allocation of meetings numbers has been found reasonably stable which includes the numbers of conferences as well. With Europe acquiring the major share, Asia & Pacific are also emerging as major markets giving reasonable competition to the developed countries. As far as number of meetings conducted per city is concerned, major Asian cities have shown significant growth be being included in top 20. Seoul also became the part of top 20 leagues (2005).
According to the statistics of ICCA, major portion international conferences attracting many delegates, smaller meetings are becoming the preferences of event organizers which involve participation of 50 to 150 attendees. This is the reason why the despite the hike in events numbers, the overall density of the participants has decreased substantially. With the average head counter being at least 662 persons, it has fallen to the average of 535 persons per event. Due to decrease in the number of overall participants in 2006-2008, a trend of conducting frequent yet smaller meetings initiated which lead to overall lower density of participation. However, the approximate growth between, 2002-2011 was 11.1% (2011).
Since the headcount of the international conferences has decreased substantially and been reduced to the character of corporate meetings, the era of 2002-2011 has shown the shift in preference from the Conventional Conference Centers to meeting facilities in major hotels i.e. almost up to 45% from 35%. Other than the small meetings, many hotels also offer huge facilities which can accommodate major conferences as well. Hence, the favorite venues for conducting conferences are meeting facilities in major hotels, convention centers and universities in the same order (ICCA, 2011).
Despite the change in the demographics of the conference industry, the subject of interest governing these conferences has remained the same which is medical science. Despite the increase in number of events held in the past decade, the headcount attending these conferences has been decreased substantially which was the lowest in 2009 showing a substantial popularity decline. Second most preferred area which has been made subject of the conferences is Technology which has shown a reasonable hike over past few years. Registration fees and total expenditure the average fee per delegate per meeting in 2011 is USD 561.34. Over the first few years of the decade the average registration fee per delegate per meeting increased until 2005. A short-lived increase in 2006 was followed by a decrease lasting until 2009. The last two years showed a slight increase again. The average total expenditure of all meetings included in the ICCA Association Database was USD 13,747,787,985 in 2011 (ICCA, 2011).
Considering the world rankings, United States and Germany have secured the leading positions respectively whereas South Korea has managed to acquire15th position in this ranking. The ranking also reflects the patterns of global trade show industry. It is accepted fact that trade show industry has a substantial and healthy impact on conference industry. With Germany being the favorite destination for trade shows due to its stable market and abundance of trade show supplier, it is also considered as an ideal location for conferences as well. On the other hand, South Korea has been emerging as the next favorite destination in trade show industry. Where these trade shows are mostly accompanied by international conferences, South Korea is also showing substantial development as being the major Asian country for conference management which is reflected in these rankings as well. Although the number of events held in the last decade is considerably smaller as compared to Germany but the growth rate shows substantial growth. Where South Korea is becoming the next favorite destination for international events, its capital, Seoul is also hosting major events. It is ranked as 13th in the cities conducting international meetings and 3rd in the cities in Asia pacific, which is higher than Hong Kong. Only from August 2012 till October 2015, there are 28 conferences scheduled only on biological sciences which can be considered as the sample of overall statistics (Conferencealerts, 2012).
Studies have provided evidence that the conference industry is cyclic in nature. This is the reason why report presented by ICCA related to the five -- years performance of meeting industry showed a substantial growth from the year 2000-2005 and then a certain downfall in the year 2008. It is important to understand that conference industry like any other industry is subjected to economical, social and political factors. Events like 9/11. Iraq-U.S. war, recent global recession tends to impose restrictions on many enterprises which obviously affected the conference industry as well. Although enterprises have began to emerge from the condition of economic distress, budgetary controls are still imposed which explains why the major…