Endemic Sees Return of Travel Demand - SITF 2023 Draws Huge Turnout
Four-day event held from May 4 to 7 at COEX
300 institutions and businesses from 40 countries participated
The SITF 2023 can be described as a "four-day travel with your family around the world". With as many as 500 kiosks that include 300 relevant institutions and enterprises from approximately 40 countries participating in the event, the SITF functions as a venue to indirectly experience a world traveling through exhibitions and conferences while gaining a chance to promote actual business activity.
The SITF is known as Korea's first comprehensive tourism expo. Marking its 38th anniversary, the event was held for four days alongside the UNWTO's World Tourism Industry Conference 2023 at COEX from May 4 to 7. With a focus on the sustainability of the tourism industry, featuring topics such as eco-tourism and ethical tourism at a time when the world is making its return to normalcy following the pandemic, the SITF 2023 garnered significant interest.
On May 5, the second day of the event, couple travel bloggers, Sang-ho Hwang and Se-rin Woo, who co-wrote (lit. Off-road Wilderness Hot Springs), took to the main stage. Point by point, they argued why we should embark on ecological traveling that ties in the theme of ethical travels with a focus on "ecology", instead of "ego", the essence of the authentic eco-travel experience.
The "This Stop is Plastic" event was conducted separately from the lecture, also highlighting eco-friendliness. In fact, the first 50 visitors for each day of SITF that turned in three bottle caps to the Plastic Stop Kiosk even received eco-friendly goods on a first-come, first-served basis. The purpose of the goods was to encourage people to think about sustainable travel for the earth's future.
The exhibition kiosks saw crowds and interest that echoed levels prior to the pandemic. 40 countries, including Guam, Spain, Malaysia, and Greece, and more than 300 institutions and businesses in the tourism sector, from the local governments of Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, and more, to hotels, tourism operators, airline companies, all took part. Participant companies promoted the latest tourism information while carrying out various forms of marketing activity. Active B2B and B2C exchanges, in particular, were well received by participating kiosks and visitors. An official from the SITF secretariat commented, "The event brought us a step closer to pre-pandemic levels while also delivering substantial outcomes from business meetings."
Exhibitions were categorized into five primary areas, including domestic tourism pavilion, overseas tourism pavilion, tourism product market pavilion, tourism venture & start-up pavilion, and traditional culture pavilion. Popular new kiosks were designed in line with the changing times, featuring themes such as world food market zone, flea market zone, plastic-free SITF, and more.
The tourism product market pavilion, in particular, was filled with visitors planning for domestic and overseas unguided or incentive tours. Korean tourism giants, such as Hana Tour and Yellow Balloon Tour, showcased unique, affordable products to meet changing demands in the post-pandemic era. During the event period, large crowds often gathered to enjoy the promotional events and special offers.
On May 5 and 6, countless numbers of families and children attended the Tiny Ping Sing-along Show and Tiny Ping Photo Time, which had seen significant interest via the amount of inquires alone prior to the opening of this year's SITF. Tiny Ping provided an enjoyable time for the children, as well as the chance to discover some of the hidden charming points of the event. Tiny Ping is a combination of the word tiny and pixie, and is an animation about tiny pixies living in a magical world where human minds are inter-connected. Each Tiny Ping YouTube clip has as many as 20 million views, proving how much it's beloved by viewers across the globe.
A variety of other side events and performances conducted on the main stage brought about excitement among event-goers. Among them, the Gosu Gara-sa-dae (lit. Tips from travel experts) was loved by visitors as they came away with special tips from travel program creators and travel experts.
Traditional performances of each country and the Hanbok Fashion Show, a rare event organized by the Korea Hanbok Promotion Institute that showcased traditional outfits from different parts of the world, brought about several rounds of applause from many visitors. The star writer concert, which was the re-enactment of the Seoul International Art Fair 2023 for the tourism expo, held dialogues with the writers at the expo pavilion and main stage. Several people commented on fusion of art and culture giving way to a special performance.
Apart from the above, the SITF 2023 also held a parade; ran a prize wheel game with that guaranteed each participant a winner, offering up prizes from travel packages and airline tickets to accommodations and coffee coupons; a first-come, first-served giveaway event; and stamp tours, all of which added to the excitement on the ground.
In particular, the online/offline B2B travel mart, which functions as a one-on-one matching service, saw as many as 433 consultations involving a total of 25 countries and regions from around the world. An event secretariat official commented that the number of consultations many national and regional officials received reaching millions indicate the revival of the domestic and international tourism industry post pandemic.
Jeong-ah Yeon, CEO of KOTFA, organizer and host of the SIFT 2023, said, "The event was coincided with the resumption of international group travel and at a time when there is growing anticipation in the industry. This resulted in active participation from home and abroad and served as an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels. I'm happy to see all the effort put into introducing new programs and promotional events to meet participants' expectations paid off and were received well." She then added, "We will continue to attract participants and visitors through various attempts to stimulate the growth of the industry next year, and strive to turn the expo into a driving force of the tourism industry at home and abroad."
The SITF will continue into next year when we celebrate its 39th year in operation from May 9 to 12 at COEX A Hall. The three-day World Tourism Industry Conference will be held as well and is slated from May 9 through 11, both in Seoul and Jeollabuk-do, or North Jeolla Province.
The SITF 2023 is a large-scale annual expo for the tourism industry organized by the Seoul International Tourism Fair and International Tourism Forum, with KOTFA as the host. It is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Seoul Metropolitan City, the Korea Tourism Organization, Korea Tourism Association, and The Tourism Sciences Society of Korea. UNWTO and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) also contribute as official partners of the expo.