Korea next international skiing destination?

Travel

Korea next international skiing destination?

by: Haps Korea Magazine | .
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published: November 01, 2018

Skiing vacations remain one of the most popular and lucrative sectors of the travel industry, bringing in an estimated $60 billion a year in revenue and attracting 50 million annual skiiers in Europe alone. When looking at the top skiing resorts in the world, at least according to reviews and revenues, it’s clear that for the moment, Europe continues to dominate, with a whopping 46% share of the global ski market.

Resorts in the French, Swiss and Austrian Alps collectively own the largest chunk of the ski industry, with several luxury resorts being known worldwide as bywords for luxury and adventure. That being said, things are changing. Japan has long been considered the best destination for skiing, owing to more favorable terrain and a wider variety of experiences available. Asian ski resorts like Hokkaido in Japan and Harbin in China are becoming much more popular internationally, as attention pivots toward Asia.
 
This also means that opportunities are opening up for Korea, ones that could see the country become the number one skiing destination in the world if done properly.
 
Domestic demand for skiing getaways in Korea is strong, and demand is growing internationally too, meaning that a select few resorts may be poised for a visitor landslide in the coming years. The biggest boost for the South Korean skiing economy was, of course, the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which drew the eyes of the world toward the stunning scenery and ski-friendly terrain of the country’s many mountains. It is estimated that the Olympics benefitted the economy to the tune of 43 trillion Won ($37 billion), so – naturally – the hospitality industry is keen to cash in.
 
In some respects, the Winter Olympics were a success for the skiing industry. Much of the sporting action was concentrated on just a couple of resorts – namely the Alpensia mega-resort in Pyeongchang and the smaller resorts clustered around the coastal city of Gangneung. The Olympics brought worldwide attention to these resorts, and the government continues to hope that their $13 billion investment in these places will pay off. However, questions remain over whether or not this will just be a temporary phenomenon, fading once the glory of the Olympics has been forgotten in its entirety. The skiing industry in Korea seems to be aware of this, as steps are being taken to attract more foreigners to the slopes and boost reputations on a global scale.
 
For example, the High1 Resort in Jeongseon County has recently started offering English-language ski lessons to foreigners, completely free of charge. Moreover, those exact same resorts are on a mission to beef up their existing amenities in order to appeal to a wider range of travelers. That same High1 Resort now also includes a number of extra features such as a traditional Korean spa, a giant casino, fine-dining restaurants serving classic Korean fare, and a golf course. The casino feature represents one of the few land-based gaming opportunities in the whole of South Korea and has proved to be a hit. The wait times for a spin at the tables are reportedly hours long, suggesting that this enhanced investment in ski resorts is certainly effective at bringing people in.
 
 
Whether other ski resorts will be able to replicate the success of High1 remains to be seen. In order to attract greater numbers of international visitors, Korea’s best bet may well be to focus heavily on the cultural advantages of opting for a resort in Pyeongchang or say, a resort in Alpe d’Huez. The overseas appetite for South Korean culture is growing at a rate that has never been seen before, being driven largely by South Korean music and television industries. 
 
While the main beneficiary of this interest has been the capital, Seoul, ski resorts would do well to capitalize on this as well. As places to ski, the big resorts of South Korea already have it all; year-round snow, great conditions on the slopes, easy accessibility from the country’s main transport hubs and luxurious lodgings. This, however, is not enough to bring in the adventure seekers on a global scale. 
 
High1 seems to have the right idea. Offering ski instruction in English should be a mandatory first step for resorts looking to branch out, closely followed by plenty of cultural offerings. High1 also offers traditional Korean onsen bathing for foreigners, as well as a fully-stocked soju bar for the apres-ski. Taking steps to ensure newcomers get the full Korean cultural experience in an accessible way could certainly cement South Korea as one of the skiing capitals of the world. Culture is the great asset the country has, besides great snow slopes, so it’s time the resorts started flaunting it.
Tags: Travel
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