Yeosu not expo-ready
Shortage of hotels, inadequate transportation threaten world fair
By Lee Hyo-sik
Yeosu Expo organizers aim to achieve the ambitious goal of drawing 10 million visitors to the small southwestern port city in South Jeolla Province during the three-month event. They say they are ready for the largest global event ever hosted by the coastal city with 105 countries and 10 international organizations taking part.
But many hospitality industry experts warn that the expo, which runs from May 12 to Aug.
12, may not be able to attract as many guests as it hopes to, citing a severe shortage of hotel rooms, particularly for foreign tourists, and inadequate transportation infrastructure in and around Yeosu.
They say the expo hype could be short-lived if organizers fail to serve visitors in the early stages of the event.
Among others, a lower-thanexpected advanced ticket sale has bogged down expo organizers over the past few months, which shows the general public is not as enthusiastic as Yeosu residents.
There are only four hotels in and around the coastal city, including the newly-constructed MVL hotel at the expo site that has 311 rooms. Combined, the four sites are apparently insufficient to accommodate the tens of thousands of people projected to visit the expo each day.
Kang Dong-suk, chairman of the Organizing Committee for EXPO 2012 Yeosu Korea, has repeatedly expressed concerns over the shortage of accommodation.
He said foreign tourists planning to visit the Yeosu Expo will likely face a lack of hotel rooms.
“We would like to attract as many foreign visitors as possible.
But the problem is that there aren’t enough lodging facilities in the city and its surrounding areas to accommodate a large number of non-Koreans,” the chairman said.
According to Kang, there are only about 1,000 hotel rooms in Yeosu and the nearby area.
Those who are lucky enough to reserve rooms in the city during the expo are being charged more than usual for a goodnight’s sleep.
Most hotels and motels in and around the city now charge guests with summer peak room rates even though the summer holiday season kicks off two months later in July.
But Yeosu city and expo organizers have no tools to curb rises in room charges. They have only been asking hotels to voluntarily refrain from raising them.
According to a survey of 125 travel agencies, hotels and airlines catering to foreign tourists, conducted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), a lack of hotel rooms and poor transportation infrastructure are the biggest obstacles facing Yeosu Expo.
About 52 percent said to host the event successfully; expo organizers should provide visitors with more lodging facilities and upgrade roads and other transportation.
Promoting the expo overseas was prioritized by 31.4 percent while 11.9 percent suggested introducing a domestic publicity campaign.