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Busan’s Local Charms as a Rising MICE City

ⓒKorea Tourism Organization Photokorea-Seo Yeong-gyunⓒKorea Tourism Organization Photokorea-Seo Yeong-gyun

With COVID-19 in the endemic stage, the market for MICE events is booming around the world, and competition to host them is heating up. Cities that market themselves as MICE destinations are realizing the importance of employing a higher level of strategy and variety in their promotional activities. The MICE city of Busan is also seeking to set itself apart with unique MICE experiences that only the marine city can offer.

The Ocean’s Role in Busan’s MICE Industry
As a global maritime city, Busan has hosted a number of prominent ocean-themed MICE events over the years, including the IAPH World Ports Conference, the FIATA World Congress, and the International Marine Debris Conference. Busan is also the standing host of the World Ocean Forum, an annual global gathering for discussions on shipping, ports, fishing, and other areas concerning the ocean. The KORMARINE International Maritime and Energy Exhibition is another regular event that Busan hosts. One of the world’s five largest shipbuilding and maritime expos, KORMARINE drew the participation of 900 businesses from 40 countries in 2023. With nearly 1,900 booths and 30,000 visitors, the 2023 event was a spectacular success.
Busan’s advanced maritime infrastructure and technology, combined with its MICE industry, have led to global recognition of Busan as a hotbed for the shipbuilding and maritime industry. The two industries are creating synergies between them. Busan’s MICE industry is promoting the economic development of the city’s shipbuilding industry, while its thriving maritime industry is consolidating Busan’s image as a top choice for MICE events, especially ocean-themed ones.

Growth of Busan’s Entertainment and Leisure Industry
The events held in a particular region can promote the development of that region’s industries. For Busan, the G-Star video game expo and the flourishing game industry in Busan that followed are an example. Busan has hosted G-Star every year since the 20-year-old festival was relocated there in 2009. The result has been a fivefold increase in the number of game companies in Busan, and a tenfold increase in the revenue of Busan’s game industry. As the standing host of G-Star, Busan is devising a number of strategies to expand its role even further. The city is building the tentatively named “Game Convergence Space,” which is scheduled to open in 2025, and operating a game fund worth KRW 100 billion to attract global game companies to Busan with attractive incentives.

Another signature MICE event project Busan is working on at present centers on coffee. As a center of international logistics, 92.5% of the coffee beans imported by Korea go through Busan (as of 2022), making Busan a center of the coffee trade. A barista from Busan became the first Korean to win the World Barista Championship, while two other baristas from Busan won the World Cup Tasters Championship, an indication of the high quality of Busan’s coffee-making. The World of Coffee and World Barista Championship 2024, two of the most celebrated coffee events in the world, were held in Busan in May of this year, the first time either event was held in Asia. The meeting of Busan’s MICE industry and coffee industry should create an interesting dynamic that will attract coffee lovers around the world.

A City of Art, Film, and Music
By hosting culture and art MICE events that reflect its own cultural identity, Busan is putting its most artistic foot forward. Organizers of MICE events in Busan can do well by emphasizing the charms unique to Busan. Consider the art fair called Art Busan, which took place at BEXCO in May this year. The largest art fair in Korea, Art Busan showcased poignant works by contemporary artists and thrust trends in the Asian art scene into the limelight. Another Art Busan offering was a program that combined art with gourmet and recreational experiences to be had in Busan, an innovation that fused locale and art to put Busan on the map as a center of the Asian art scene.

Busan is an ideal host for international festivals thanks to its well-developed infrastructure, including the highly accessible Gimhae International Airport. The Busan International Film Festival and Busan One Asia Festival(BOF), both fixture festivals of Busan, are other examples. The Busan International Film Festival is held every autumn at the Busan Cinema Center. Last year, a special initiative to promote Busan as an international tourism city called “Modu Modu BIFF” (Busan International Film Festival for Everyone) saw giant screens erected at such Busan landmarks as the North Port Coastal Park and Busan Museum to draw crowds for movie screenings, performances, and talk shows in the evenings. The BOF is a large music festival that brings some of today’s hottest K-pop artists to the stage. Now entering its eighth year, the BOF is a favorite of K-pop fans outside of Korea. With the BOF 2024 coming up on June 8, organizers are already promoting Busan’s best tourism offerings on social media and the internet so that they can be enjoyed by K-pop fans visiting Busan for the event.

City Identity as a Powerful Selling Point
Onboard with the trend of branding MICE events to reflect the character of host locales, the BTO CVB since 2010 has supported the development of “Star Brand Conventions,” which in 2012 spawned the “regionally specialized convention project” and more recently the “Busan-specialized B-convention Project.” The development of a range of signature events for Busan that draw on the city’s strengths will establish it as one of the most popular MICE destinations in the world.