More than 11,000 delegates, 76 percent of whom flew in from overseas, descended on the Korean capital in late May for the 22nd World Dermatology Congress held at the COEX Convention and Exhibition Center, the city’s premier venue.
With such a large group, staying for nearly a week, the challenge was to find interesting activities for delegates to engage in during their off time.
In the list of activities were customised night-time Korean taste tours, especially designed for congress attendees. What was wonderful about these was that the programme took groups to dining outlets within the vicinity of the COEX district, allowing them to experience the local culinary delights right on their doorstep. After a full day of meetings, most delegates did not want to venture north of the Han River to enjoy a moment at leisure.
Some 300 people signed up for the food trips, which were scheduled across three evenings. Organised by O’ngo Food Communications, each three-hour programme kicked off with a visit to a traditional Korean market, after which participants where whisked off to a local Korean barbecue restaurant (which proved to be the hit of the evening). After a dinner that included knife-cut noodle soup and homemade frozen yogurt, it was off to a cloudy rice wine restaurant to sample a variety of pan-fried pancakes made from meat and vegetables.
The focus was about letting people “taste different kinds of modern, casual food and alcohol at quality restaurants and outdoor dining venues”. The tour stops were all within walking distance of each other. The programme had four to five restaurants in its itinerary.
“Food is a major attraction for any destination. Some people might be interested in history, others art or sports, but everybody has to eat,” says Daniel Gray, chief marketing officer at O’ngo Food. “The thing is, it is difficult for visitors to Korea to find good restaurants and communicating can be a little bit daunting. What we do is simplify everything and give people a crash course on how to eat in Korea.”
For the World Dermatology Congress, O’ngo Food designed three different itineraries besides two regular ones – including a special tour created for vegetarians. Each group had four to 15 people plus a guide. Bigger groups were split between different guides. An option to join a Korean cooking class was also offered as part of the programme.
“We ask our guests beforehand if anyone has dietary restrictions or things they would prefer not to eat. We work with the restaurants to inform them if there are any foods members of the group are allergic to.”
Gray adds: “In a fix, what we do is pick up food at a different restaurant and bring it to the place where others are eating. We find that our restaurant partners are generally very accommodating to our clients.”
O’ngo Food and COEX are now forming an exclusive partnership for COEX-organised conventions and trade shows. The centre’s Global Business Unit is working with the latter to form culinary tours that will serve as networking sessions for overseas buyers at COEX-owned trade shows, while its convention team will offer O’ngo Food’s high-end taste tours to VIP guests of congresses held at the venue.
“We share the same vision of bringing all things Korean to the global market,” says Steven Kim, director of the Global Business Unit at COEX Convention Center. “We know that international business visitors want a high standard for meetings tour programmes than what is usually offered in the Asian MICE industry. We believe O’ngo’s tours fulfil that standard.”
EVENT: 22nd World Dermatology Congress
POST-EVENT ACTIVITY: Evening food tours
VENUE: Restaurants around the COEX area
DATE: May 26-28, 2011
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: More than 300
EXPERIENCE PROVIDER: O’ngo Food Communications