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July 28, 2015

Asia: Korean MICE Players Regain Optimism as MERS Outbreak Abates

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BUSINESS sentiments among MICE players in South Korea are improving, following the government’s report on Wednesday that there have been no new MERS cases for the 17th consecutive day.

Kimberley Kim, a marketing official with event specialist MCI in Seoul, which organises around three major congresses and as many as 100 smaller MICE events in Seoul every year, is confident that the crisis will be over by the time the city hosts the World Allergy Congress in October.

Kim revealed that business had been impacted by the MERS scare.

She said: "We had a conference last month and a number of the people who were scheduled to attend called to cancel. It was an industry event and it went ahead in the end, but about 200 of the 900 delegates dropped out.

"But it is clear that the situation has improved and there have been no new cases for quite a long time now, so we believe the worst is over."

Woo-tak Suh, a spokesman for the Grand InterContinental Seoul Parnas which sits in the heart of the city and close to COEX convention and exhibition centre, agreed that the outbreak appears to have run its course.

"MERS did have an effect on our business, but it was limited," he said. "And we understand from the government that things are improving. We look forward to our guests returning very soon."

While no official numbers are available on the impact of MERS on South Korea's MICE sector, the Korea Tourism Organisation reported that June arrivals had plummeted 41 per cent dip, with numbers standing at 750,925, down from 1.27 million a year ago.

Taiwan footfalls tumbled 75.7 per cent, arrivals from Hong Kong shrank 74.6 per cent, and Singapore numbers fell by more than 62 per cent.

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