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All Eyes on Seoul... 7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism

Seoul became the first city in Northeast Asia to host the summit

The summit proved to be a great success with 500 delegates from 50 countries attending

Summit held in conjunction with the Seoul International Fair & Sustainable Forum 2018


The UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism - the world's largest international conference in the field of urban tourism - was held at The Shilla Seoul from September 16 to 19. Seoul is the first city in Northeast Asia to have hosted the summit.

Tourism destination cities cooperate with one other at the UNWTO Global Summit to share their vision, contemplate important issues, and discuss new joint strategies. This year's annual summit, which was first held in 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey, is the seventh edition of the conference.

Co-hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this year's event was held under the theme “A 2030 Vision for Urban Tourism.” The approximately 500 delegates from 50 countries that were in attendance discussed joint strategies and their vision for the future.

The opening ceremony on the 17th was attended by Seoul mayor Park Won-soon and UNWTO's secretary-general, Zurab Pololikashvili. Others in attendance included representatives of major tourism destinations, heads of tourism administrations and organizations, and officials of related ministries and agencies. SMG promoted the appeal of Seoul as a tourism destination by discussing the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the advantages of urban regeneration.

“Tourism is a future-oriented industry that accounts for 10% of global GDP, and it provides a channel for sharing everything that a city has amassed,” said Seoul mayor Park Won-soon. He added, “Seoul, which is currently ranked as the number three MICE city in the world, will go beyond pursuing quantitative growth as it promotes qualitative growth.”

This year's summit featured cases from other countries on important issues that global cities are faced with such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the development of sustainable tourism, and it provided an opportunity for the delegates to contemplate solutions along with global scholars.

In his opening address, UNWTO's secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili stated, “Urban tourism is simultaneously emerging as an important topic in the tourism industry and is becoming a catalyst for innovation.” He went on to say, “Our vision for the future will help to further develop tourism and will also benefit local communities and the economy.”

The summit's program included the opening ceremony, high-level panel, four sessions, closing ceremony, and tours around Seoul. Economist B. Joseph Pine - known for first using the term “experience economy” - delivered the keynote address on the 17th, which was followed by the high-level panel where heads of tourism organizations from Greece and Mongolia, mayors of major tourism destinations such as Dubrovnik and Kuala Lumpur, and officials of related ministries and agencies gathered around to share their experiences and visions on urban tourism.

The sessions covered a variety of topics in depth and from many different perspectives. This included looking at innovative approaches to competitiveness in urban destinations in Session 1, how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is shaping the future of urban tourism in Session 2, urban regeneration in Seoul in Session 3, and fair and inclusive tourism in Session 4.

SMG received a great deal of attention from the delegates for preparing different technical tours that the visitors could experience while the summit was in session. SMG operated a total of six tour programs which included a traditional Seoul tour, spouse tour, session-related tour, night tour, VIP Seoul Tour, and a JSA·DMZ tour. The participants of the tours had the opportunity to experience the charm of Seoul by going on the tour programs that they had preregistered for.

This year's summit was held in conjunction with the Seoul International Fair & Sustainable Forum 2018 (SIFT 2018), which was in its third year. Under the theme of “Fair and Inclusive Tourism,” SIFT 2018 took a look at the phenomenon of the overabundance of tourists, which has become an issue in recent years. The forum also shared measures that could be implemented to promote successful coexistence between tourists and local communities.


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