Korea readies for the winter games

With the final preparations underway ahead of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, South Korea is gearing up for a bumper year of winter tourism.

The games will be held in the mountain district of Pyeongchang, 180km east of Seoul, as well as in the eastern coastal city of Gangneung which will host hockey, curling and skating events.

Ahead of the Games, Korea is seeing a strong demand from Australian travellers, with a 6.2% increase in visitors in the first quarter of this year, compared to 2016. In all, 151,979 Australians visited South Korea in 2016.

While skiing in South Korea might not have the same profile among Aussies as destinations like Canada or Japan, Jennifer Doherty, marketing manager for Korea Tourism Organisation said the number of Australians skiing in Korea was increasing, and it was hoped the Winter Olympics could be used as an opportunity to showcase the country as a winter destination.

“Like Nagano before in Japan and Vancouver in Canada, Korea will benefit from the worldwide publicity and it’s expected international skiers will visit Korea before, during and after the Games,” she said.

Doherty said apart from catching the action on the slopes at next February’s games, there were many other things to entertain visitors.

“One thing that winter and ski visitors to Korea love is the unique culture of Korea,” she said. “Koreans are very warm and welcoming and no doubt with the Games there will be great support for visitors.”

Pyeonchang is the centre of Korea’s winter sports region and features three large ski resorts including the YongPyong Resort, the Jeongseon Alpine Centre and Alpensia (Pyeongchang’s Winter Olympic Park). The Taebaek mountains is another popular destination for alpine activities.

Doherty said Australians travelling to the Winter Olympics would enjoy a similar experience to when South Korea hosted the successful FIFA World Cup in 2002 and the Summer Olympics in 1988.

The Korean Tourist Organisation is anticipating a strong green and gold contingent to make the pilgrimage to Pyeongchang next year, with many of Australia’s high profile stars such as Alex Pullin (snowboard cross), Britteny Cox (ski moguls), Scott James (snowboarding) and Lydia Lassila in the womens aerials all in good form after competing in venue test events.

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang run from February 9 to 25, 2018.