KOTFA – Korea World Travel Fair 2009

KOTFA, South Korea's World Travel Fair, just got over in Seoul. The fair, a (very) mini ITB attracted a number of exhibitors (somewhat predictably) from the Far-East, India and the Middle East. Some European countries were there as well but only three organizations from the US, Apple Core Hotels, Microtel and a Washington DC based company. That is unfortunate as for Koreans, the US is a high priority travel destination particularly after the visa-waiver program was instituted earlier this year as reported on this site.

The potential for outbound tourists, particularly when the recession is crested can be gaged from the fact that an extraordinarily high percentage (nearly 23% or some 12 million) Koreans travel abroad. Add to that the pre-visa waiver number was less than a million but if anything is to be inferred from a similar move by Canada nearly two decades ago, that should explode to nearly 2 million in the near term. Both Korean Air and Asiana airlines have direct non-stop flights to major US metropolitan areas including New York and Los Angeles.

Hotels in the US trying to cater to Korean tourists should note that Koreans can have special needs, specially when it comes to surmounting language barriers. They also tend to have strong dietary preferences but on the flip side represent a strong market for group travel which may justify any added costs on account of the former. Given the country's nearly 90% rate of internet penetration, a good way to reach the Korean market besides the usual distribution channels of tour-operators and TAs, Korean language website with a search engine is an investment well worth considering.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.