Grand Hyatt Seoul ready for MICE business
By Kim Rahn
Korea will have more international conventions and meetings following free trade pacts with the United States and Europe, and the Grand Hyatt Seoul has been, and will be, the market leader in catering for such events, said Hyatt Hotels corporate director.
Brian Harris, director of sales and marketing for North Asia, predicted large growth for Korea’s hotel industry.
“You have the environment in which demand continues to increase: We’ve seen the recent signing of FTAs with both the United States and Europe, we’re seeing the easing of visa restrictions with China and we’re seeing a re-bound from Japanese businesses. All having an impact on demand into Korea,” said Harris, who is also sales and marketing executive assistant manager at the Grand Hyatt Seoul.
“But if you really take a look at the supply within Seoul and within Korea, the growth is very small compared to demand. It’s a very unique model where hotels are experiencing higher-than-normal occupancy.”
Harris said not only hotels but also all related industries as well as the government are trying to take advantage of the increasing inbound travel.
The 39-year-old said such a stance will bring a large increase in businesses related to meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE), and his hotel is ready for this.
“The Grand Hyatt Seoul offers a total one-stop meeting, conferencing and banqueting solution, with a broad range of facilities ranging from those for grand scale events for up to 2,000 people in the elegant Grand Ballroom or Regency Room to private meetings in a suite of five state-of-the-art rooms. With one contact person in charge, the hotel can handle everything for MICE events, from accommodation to dining.”
Besides the event halls, the hotel has 601 guestrooms, 12 restaurants and bars, and an up-to-date fitness center that features facilities other hotels usually don’t have by taking advantage of the extensive land of the property, such as an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts and a winter ice skating rink.
Harris said the location of the hotel on Mt. Nam in the center of Seoul also helps.
“A central location within the city makes it rather easily accessible from all points of Seoul. It’s very easy to pull individuals from both sides of the river and different corners of Seoul,” he said.
“It’s a very dynamic picturesque property as well. If you look at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, there are not too many places you can actually go and feel like you are in a city center and you’re outside of the city center at the same time.”
Hyatt brands show success here
There are four Hyatt properties in Korea ― the Grand Hyatt Seoul, Park Hyatt Seoul, Hyatt Regency Incheon and Hyatt Regency Jeju. And they represent different brands, with the Park Hyatt for luxury travel, Grand Hyatt for a major gateway residence, and Hyatt Regency at locations near airports or resort destinations.
“As a global presence, Korea is one of our samples which other countries follow,” Harris said.
All the properties have shown great performances, partly because of Korea’s unique environment, he said.
“With the global economic downturn, Korea is actually on top. We are actually exceeding expectations in many different areas; it’s been very positive for the past six years since the global downturn began. Korea has stepped up for the hotel industry, and not only the Hyatt hotels but also other hotels here have seen very positive times.”
Taking advantage of such a good environment and positive outlook for more inbound travel, the corporation is expanding its business here: the Park Hyatt Busan is to open around March or April next year.
“Taking a look at the environment and finding the right fit for that, we felt Park Hyatt will be very well suited within the city of Busan. There’s definitely a clientele and a certain base that needs to be served by a Hyatt luxury property. We’ve seen success in Seoul and we feel that will be replicated in Busan.”
The Hyatt Regency Incheon, located next to Incheon International Airport, is also building another building, nearly doubling the size of the property. “It gives very good foresight on how the area is growing by Incheon airport, and the preparation for future events coming to Korea including the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018.”
The director said the geographical location of Korea offers unique advantages to those interested in doing business in Northeast Asia, as the country is located between China and Japan, allowing easy and convenient access to the world’s leading economies. The hotel corporation may build more property here, although nothing has been confirmed yet. “If it’s a suitable area that matches our brand strategy, it’s always under consideration.”
Amid growing competition, a membership program is one of the strategies to attract guests.
The frequent stay program, named Hyatt Gold Passport, offers the opportunity to gain points and exchange them for future rewards, such as free stays, or convert them to miles for travel. The hotel company is improving the program and changes will come in the next three to six months, Harris said.
For the American, Korea was his first overseas workplace and since he came here in 2007, he has stayed at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, being promoted three times.
It is quite rare for a ranking hotelier to stay at one hotel for such a long period. Harris said what makes him love this country is the people, especially his employees. The director noted professional, well-educated and dynamic staff on the property is the hotel’s top strategy to win the competition and offer truly valuable services.
“When you look at what truly differentiates the experience of one property from the next, it is the employees. It’s the personal attention and hospitality they provide. If you feel that, that’s what a true luxury experience is,” Harris said.
“When you have professional career, you need to take a look at ‘Are you being challenged?’ and ‘Are there rewards for challenges?’ For past four years I have had the opportunity to learn and grow, and the rewards were very positive.”