[Case Study] Seoul held UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific 2020 in 3D virtual Seoul
the Virtual Seoul Platform
Seoul developed Virtual Platform for Destination Marketing in close resemblance of the city
Delegates from global associations accessed “3D Virtual Seoul”
Third city to host the most international conferences in the world showed its IT technology power to the international delegates
“We will continue our efforts to keep the title of “the Best MICE City Seoul”
“We will be landing shortly in Seoul, the venue for this year’s UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific. Have a nice trip.”
As I went online to attend the 8th UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific on the 17th of September, I was greeted by a scene depicting the inside of an airplane flying over Seoul with Namsan Seoul Tower looking out the window. The plane landed slowly with a welcome message. The next scene was a scaled-down graphic of Seoul. The city of Seoul looked quite “cute” and “interesting”. I signed in. The main conference hall stood right in the middle of Seoul, inside Changdeokgung palace, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main event was scheduled for 11:00 am, in fifteen minutes. Before entering the conference room (Changdeokgung palace), I decided to tour the lounge, Seoul booth, and theater (virtual tour hall).
The lounge was set up in the Seoul Botanical Garden, one of Seoul's representative Unique Venues, located in Magok-dong, Gangseo-gu. The garden showcases plants from 12 cities around the world and is a tourist destination that introduces the vegetation and culture of plants. The garden was a perfect ambience where global participants can hold business meetings comfortably. The set-up of a lounge in the Seoul Botanic Garden made the event stand out, conveying the message that the participants are not just any “online users” but are associations experts from all over the world participating in the event to make important decisions and to discuss business.
The lounge was bustling with group chats and one-on-one meetings. With cameras and microphones on, participants chatted from the comfort of their home or office. Those who are too shy or cannot use a microphone for some reasons opted to use the real time chat window.
1. the conference hall(Changdeokgung Palace) 2. The online Seoul Theater (Dongdaemun Design Plaza rooftop garden)
3. teambuilding activities in Seoul(DDP) 4. A PR booth(Namsan Seoul Tower)
My next stop was Namsan Seoul Tower, where a PR booth was installed by the Seoul Tourism Organization (STO). Business meetings were being held here as well. I was greeted by STO staff, just as I would be greeted by PR team staff at an offline event. They kindly answered my questions and provided information about Seoul’s MICE Industry. Participants asked about Seoul's latest culture, events, and quarantine systems that they wanted to learn for their future visits to Seoul after the coronavirus pandemic is over and international exchanges resume. They gleaned ample information about Seoul with vivid explanations from the STO’s PR staff.
The online Seoul Theater (Dongdaemun Design Plaza rooftop garden) is a place where you can see every corner of the MICE city Seoul at a glance. When entering the virtual tour hall, sixteen 360-degree VR videos with five themes greet the participants. The “Seoul for Beginners” video takes you on a tour of Seoul’s representative landmarks. “Explore Seoul” will allow you to go and visit Unique Venues in Seoul online. Through “Active Seoul”, you can experience teambuilding activities in Seoul with foreign friends. Through “PLUS CITIES”, you could go on a virtual fam tour in partner cities Gwangju and Gangwon-do, and watch 360-degree VR videos with Eun-woo Cha, the Seoul Tourism PR ambassador. While taking the 360-degree virtual tour, I vividly felt as if I was strolling around Jingwansa Temple with a Buddhist monk, meditating and taking a tour of Bukchon Hanok Village on a rickshaw (Weride).
As the main event was about to start, I entered and looked around the conference hall. It was elaborately decorated with the motif of the interior of a royal palace of Korea. Inside the palace, a large screen was installed on a throne-shaped podium, and participants (avatars) were sitting on silk cushions. Large banners were hung on the left and right walls of the palace. As I clicked the banner on the left wall that read “Watch on Demand”, I could replay the past speeches, a feature prepared for participants who might have missed sessions due to time difference. A click on the banner on the right wall pulled up information of the presenters.
At 11 am, the event kicked off with congratulatory speeches by the President of the Union of International Associations (UIA), a Director-General of Seoul City, and the President of Seoul Tourism Organization, followed by a keynote speech by Cyril Ritchie, the president of UIA and a panel discussion. Eight speakers appeared on the screen divided into eight different windows to have a panel discussion with a Q&A session where participants were allowed to ask questions real-time. I felt like I am seeing what I used to see in an on-site conference just on the computer screen.
The workshop rooms installed in the Sebitseom island offered a panoramic view of the Hangang River through the windows stretching from the floor to ceiling on the left. The right-side wall was decorated with cool posters created by the Seoul Convention Bureau and pictures of participants chatting lively on tables. As I tapped on the screen in the center, a pop-up window opened for a video conference where participants could have free discussion with the presence of a moderator. Three workshop rooms were active with three different themes. I could pick and choose any of the three workshops and discuss the topic of my choice with other participants. It worked just the same way as breakout sessions in an offline event.
Organizers added a lot of fun elements into the event such as a membership card with a name converted in Korean, a virtual stamp tour, and social media authentication event. In particular, the virtual stamp tour played a role in keeping participants staying and exploring in Virtual Seoul. Online event participants get distracted easily and have a tendency to leave the site more often than in an offline event. The virtual stamp tour allowed participants to get a stamp at each program by completing a given mission and win gifts. I could feel that the participants were enjoying Virtual Seoul throughout the event.
1. Networking lounge 2. group chats (the Seoul Botanical Garden)
What Seoul would look like in a 3D virtual space
On September 17-18, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (acting mayor Seo Jeong-hyup) and Seoul Tourism Organization (President Rhee Jaesung) held the UIA Round Table Asia-Pacific 2020 in “3D Virtual Space Seoul”. Starting with the keynote speech by Cyril Ritchie, the president of UIA, a total of nine speeches were given on various topics including how to use UIA's database, organizational structure and resources required for associations and conferences, international conference venues, and business models.
In the run up to the event, I was curious about what Seoul would look like in a 3D virtual space. I also had other questions in mind like “will the participants of the Round Table accessing the site from all over the world be able to have business meetings seamlessly?” and “with the world gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic for over 9 months, how familiar would MICE workers be with non-face-to-face meetings?” I was waiting for my questions to be answered by those who put together this event.
The result is successful. The event was hailed as having created business networking opportunities successfully with novel ideas and planning. Seoul, the host city of the UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific 2020 created a virtual conference platform that can be used not only as a conference space, but also for advertising the city. As international exchanges stopped due to the pandemic, the Round Table was moved online. The city of Seoul created an online platform to carry out marketing campaign for the city for the post-pandemic era to compensate for the economic opportunities lost due to the hosting of the event online and to create potential demand by allowing participants from around the world to virtually experience Seoul through various promotional efforts.
In order to make participants experience Seoul virtually, various event places including the lobby (the map of Seoul) were designed carefully to depict in detail the features of the interior and exterior of various landmarks of Seoul. Sixteen 360-degree VR videos were created using a state-of-the-art meeting technology as well. In addition to counseling at the Seoul PR booth, participants were given opportunities to experience Seoul through a brochure, websites and the promotional video clip played at the lobby. These efforts met with enthusiastic responses. During the two days of the event, a total of 80 people performed 859 missions in the virtual stamp tour of “Virtual Seoul.” Over a hundred participants watched the promotional video and brochure and 33 participants spent 12 hours at the PR booth, having consultations with the STO staff.
Media campaigns generated remarkable outcome as well. A total 45 media reports covered the event in Korean, an explosive response compared to an average MICE event. Nine major global media companies took part in the “Virtual Media Familiarization Tour.” A series of feature articles are in the pipeline and the number of social media engagements including teaser video releases and event reached 600,000.
It is worthwhile to note the statistics testifying that the event was a successful “business networking” opportunity albeit held online. Carefully orchestrated programs such as the group chat in the lounge, one-on-one invitation and conversation, the “STO virtual consultation counter” nudged participants into business meetings. In fact, about 73 participants had a group chat for a total of 13 hours in the lounge.
"Seoul to offer 3D Virtual Conference Platform to the MICE Industry"
The Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul Tourism Organization deserve an acclaim that the 8th UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific successfully captured and delivered the charms of Seoul virtually in every aspect of the event leveraging 3D graphic technologies and entertainment features. The organizers plan to share the proprietary 3D virtual conference platform with the MICE industry to be used in future online events.
The registration fees collected from the participants of the “8th UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific 2020” will be donated in full to youths from low-income families (residing in Seoul) who are studying to pursue career in the MICE industry. For more information about the event and a video about the 3D virtual conference platform, please visit the UIA's official website (https://uia.org/roundtable/2020/asiapacific).
2020 UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific
The UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific that marks the 8th meeting this year is an international conference that brings together about 150 UIA officials from 23 countries. It is a forum where representatives from major associations, academic societies from the Asia Pacific region, convention bureaus, and convention centers gather together to discuss the development of international associations and academic societies and build a global network. The city of Seoul was ranked the “world’s third” international conference host city for five consecutive years (2015~2019) in the International Meetings Statistics Report published by UIA every year.