Seoul turns to music industry to boost local tourism

By Bi Mengying Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/8 18:23:40

K-pop boy group BTS performs at the 18th FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019 on April 28. Photo: IC

Inset: An "I Seoul U" sign in Seoul Photo: IC

A total of 782 million domestic trips were made by Chinese mainland travelers during the seven-day National Day holiday this year, while more than 7 million outbound trips were made during the holiday, China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced on Tuesday. 

This data indicates that the tourism industry is a force that cannot be ignored. For this reason, many cities in China are going to great lengths to attract tourists through various strategies such as promoting local historical and cultural heritage. Over in South Korea, capital city of Seoul is focusing on a more modern facet of its culture to boost tourism: K-pop. 

Influential ambassador

On September 9, K-pop boy group BTS was announced as Honorary Tourism Ambassadors for Seoul. This will be the third consecutive year that the members of the band have been official ambassadors of the city. Supposedly, given the large membership in the so-called ARMY (the name by which BTS fans call themselves), choosing the seven-member boy band as ambassadors is sure to be a boon for the city's tourism industry. 

Back in April, the seven-member band made history by becoming the first South Korean musical guest to perform on Saturday Night Live (SNL), the famous US sketch-comedy show on NBC. The band introduced K-pop to many SNL watchers, most of whom were not familiar with it. Many admitted that they were amazed by the band's talented performance, with some saying they would start downloading their music. From there it's possible that through K-pop, these new fans will become interested in learning more about the country and visiting it in person someday. 

At a press conference held by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on September 27, the office noted that it has seen a shift from tour groups to individual tourists visiting the city. 

"The proportion of individual tourists has risen to 98 percent, in comparison to a bit over 50 percent four to five years ago. K-pop is one significant factor that contributed to growth in the number of individual tourists," the mayor said.   

Social media influencers

Besides giving much thought to choosing ambassadors to promote the city's tourism industry, the city has also been exerting notable effort to increase tourism growth with the help of social media influencers. Australian K-pop dance cover group ABK is one great example.  

The dance group is composed of young people from the suburbs of Adelaide. The 30 members of the group came together in early 2018 through a Facebook fan page for K-pop. The dance group began performing and filming their K-pop videos at various landmarks across Adelaide and posted them online. 

After scoring millions of views with their videos, funded by the Korea Tourism Organization, seven members from the dance group headed to Seoul as special guest stars to perform a cover of BTS's "Boy with Luv" as a part of a tourism campaign for South Korea. With more than 80 videos so far listed on their channels, the group has garnered more than 215,000 subscribers. As for the video they shot for the tourism campaign, which was posted in May, it has reached 8.7 million views.

In the video, the crew is seen dancing in front of various tourist attractions across the city, with a giant sign "I Seoul U" frequently appearing. This was the slogan voted on by 135,000 residents and experts in the city, signifying Seoul connects "U" and "I" together.

Lessons worth learning

It is undeniable that China has rich cultural resources and a long history, which is an important factor in tourism. So what can China use to represent its modern, popular culture as well as attract people from different countries have become questions that those in the tourism industry have begun reflecting on.   

Like it or not, social media influencers are playing an increasingly important role in today's society. Seoul saw an opportunity and took it. Aside from inviting traditional press such as TV and newspaper outlets, the city has been inviting social media influencers with different focuses, such as travel and makeup, to visit the city. This is something China should consider.

"You have popular social media influencers in China, you also have a social media influencer economy. We invited these people to visit here and promote the city's tourism in the hopes of attracting more individual tourists. Based on their different hobbies and needs, they can discover different reasons to visit Seoul. We think social media has been playing an increasingly role in influencing tourism," Park told a Chinese reporter at the conference.
Newspaper headline: K-pop connections

Posted in: MUSIC,ART

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