Halla Group and Kakao announced plans to develop a mega tourist complex in Jeju Province jointly. They will attract 1 trillion won in investment to complete the Jeju Myosanbong Tourist Complex as early as 2025. They plan to develop a comprehensive tourism complex with golf courses, hotels, and a botanical garden to establish a central destination for Jeju tourism.
Halla Holdings recently selected Kakao VX and Stonebridge Asset Management as the first-stage partners for attracting investment in the Myosanbong Tourism Complex. Stonebridge Asset Management will be in charge of investment, while Kakao VX will take up the operations.
The project will focus on upgrading the golf course (Saint Four Gold and Resort) and auxiliary facilities in the first stage. The investment industry insiders assess that Halla chose Kakao VX as the business partner to benefit from its expertise in combining sports and information technology (IT).
Myosanbong Tourist Complex is a special tourism zone in northeastern Jeju. With an area of 4.3 million square meters, it is the largest among tourism development sites in the province. It is close to major tourist attractions such as Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak and Seopjikoji. It is also highly accessible, only 16 km from the new airport (the second airport) planned by Jeju Province.
For a while, the development of the Myosanbong Tourist Complex had halted. Although the tourism development project was approved by Jeju Province in 2006, the construction developer (Ennis) was forced to stop after building a golf course (Saint Four) and a resort condo because the project did not have enough capital.
In 2016, Halla Holdings and its construction subsidiary Halla Co., Ltd. took over the construction developer, investing 130 billion and 80 billion won, respectively. Halla Group was only focused on operating the golf course until the recent decision to develop the site.
Many suggested that a proper tourism complex was necessary because the northeastern Jeju had become a blind spot of tourism. It was also more economically feasible with the upsurge in domestic travel demands amid the COVID-19 situation. Last year, JJ Halla, the subsidiary of Halla Holdings that operates the golf course, made operating surplus for the first time since taking over Ennis, generating ample investment capacity.
First, Halla Group will upgrade the golf course and auxiliary facilities over an area of 1.72 million square meters with Kakao VX and Stonebridge Asset Management. They will roll out 120 billion won in the first stage of the project. Saint Four (36 holes) is recognized as a prestigious golf club, one of the top 100 golf courses in Asia in 2020 (No. 80). An insider of the group explained, “Since Kakao VX provides various new services related to golf, we will be able to create synergies in upgrading Saint Four. Through extensive investment, we plan to establish it as the top golf course in Korea.”
Kakao VX is currently operating screen golf courses using augmented reality (AR) technology, a mobile app for golf reservations, and a smart home training service using artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The industry interprets such moves as pioneering the new business realm of experience-based healthcare.
Halla Group intends to initiate the second stage of development as soon as the investment is completed in the first stage, which will complete the tourist complex on the remaining site. The plan will establish a theme park, a botanical garden, a performance hall, and a hotel to build a tourist complex around Myosanbong. Halla Holdings has already started the preliminary steps, including the construction of infrastructure.
“Although Halla Group had not been aggressive in areas outside of auto parts, it became more proactive to prepare their future business in recent years,” explained an industry insider. “If they are successful in this project, it will provide an opportunity to take them one step higher.”
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