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Tying the knot on Jeju Island

기사승인 2013.06.12  18:10:54

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- Tourist chiefs seek Chinese lovers

   
 Couples on Jeju can take advantage of the stunning scenery and many wedding services. Photo courtesy iWedding

Jeju has long been known as a honeymoon island but couples are increasingly visiting to get married, as well. The Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO) is now targeting the burgeoning Chinese market for wedding tourism and is promoting Jeju wedding products across the country.

The importance of the wedding industry to the local economy is clear; the Yeon-buk Road, linking Shin Jeju and Hwabuk, is peppered with wedding shops and photography studios. Any hotel worth its salt also comes complete with a wedding hall and dining facilities for the happy day.

In China the “pa ling hou” are every marketer’s dream; young, wealthy and mobile, this demographic - literally “after the 80s” (born post-1980)-  is seen as the key to bringing more big spenders to Jeju Island.

Chinese tourists are leading the world: not only did they recently overtake the US and Germany for tourist spending, but according to the UNWTO, there will be 100 million per year by 2020. Just two hours from its urbanized east coast, Jeju Island is perfectly situated to take full advantage of all their tourist yuan.

According to an industry report in 2011, newlyweds numbered 10 million in 2008-9 and this is set to reach 12 million in the years ahead. Like in Korea, weddings are big business in China and the wealthy upper classes are increasingly looking abroad to “keep up with the Joneses.”

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is an expensive task; there are the photos, dresses, dinners, wedding halls and more to think about. For photos alone, bride and groom are expected to find a studio, borrow wedding clothes, spend a day out on location and then pay for the production, even for the most basic of packages.

Such expenses took spending on weddings to over 60 billion US dollars in 2010 and this is increasing at a rate of 20-30 percent every year. Analysts are predicting the next decade to be a golden age for the wedding industry.

The younger, wealthier generations are conspicuous consumers and research shows that 31 percent of savings is spent on wedding celebrations. Wedding consultants are booming and providing highly individualized services to clients.

The “pa ling hou” generation is thus looking abroad for that a little bit extra and looking to take advantage. JTO has been drumming up interest for Jeju in the Middle Kingdom and across the region. Teaming up with wedding planners in Taiwan and Hong Kong in March 2011, JTO sought ways to promote Jeju’s various wedding products.
Jeju is hoping to capitalize on its strengths, such as stunning sceneries and the titles of UNESCO World Natural Heritage and World New7Wonders of Nature, and the visa-free system which attracts tourists to the island. Despite this, tourism chiefs recognize that there is some room to improve.

Chinese couples are used to finding information for wedding products online but Jeju has yet to effectively market to Chinese customers. Wedding infrastructure also needs to improve before the market can be fully exploited and the reality matches the brochures.

As part of this drive, on May 9, 2012, 50 new-lyweds were invited to Seongsan Sunrise Peak. The event was funded by JTO in partnership with Daegyeong Broadcasting of Heuklyonggangseong in China.

Also, in 2012 a number of events were held across China, such as in Guangzhou where JTO attended a wedding expo to promote Jeju. In Beijing an introductory event was held with local tour operators to publicize Jeju wedding tourism and its benefits.

A Hong Kong wedding magazine and Chinese wedding association were also invited separately to Jeju for “fam tours.” Fam tours are subsidized trips organized by the industry, in this case JTO, to promote regions or travel products.

JTO has also been promoting “Love in Romantic Jeju” through a promotional wedding magazine “Cosmo Bride” in China with a circulation of 605,000 per month.

All of these efforts are expected to bear fruit in the years ahead as local officials seek to diversify the local tourism market. With 500 million people within a two-hour flight of the island JTO is aware of the potential benefits of niche markets such as weddings.

With the increasing spending power of China’s “pa ling hou” generation, JTO is clearly determined to make sure there are no hitches for Chinese couples tying the knot.

 

   
 Photo courtesy iWedding

Jeju Weekly editor@jejuweekly.com

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